Ringling Bros. Promises to Improve Workplace Safety Following Accident
In the wake of a 2014 accident that left nine employees injured, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has agreed to a settlement that includes paying a $7,000 fine and improving safety procedures to keep their employees safe on the job.
On May 4, 2014, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was performing at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, Rhode Island. One part of the show involved stunts performed by eight acrobats hanging from their hair. During one stunt, called “The Human Chandelier,” a carabiner clip in the apparatus supporting the acrobats snapped, causing the performers to fall 15-20 feet to the ground. A ninth circus employee was injured by the performers as they fell. Fortunately, none of the performers were killed in the accident. The performers were treated for injuries including head injuries and broken bones at local hospitals. Three of the performers were in critical condition.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus cancelled their remaining shows in Providence immediately following the accident. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigated the accident and found the carabiner had not been loaded according to the manufacturer’s specifications. In November 2014, OSHA cited Ringling Bros. with one serious violation of OSHA standards and fined them $7,000, the maximum fine they were allowed to issue. Ringling Bros. initially disputed the charges, but later agreed to pay the fine.
As part of the settlement, Ringling Bros. also agreed to re-evaluate their safety protocol to prevent future accidents and keep their performers safe. The new procedures include having a professional engineer evaluate all new and existing aerial acts, each act assembling a technical book to be provided to each circus unit, and developing written checklists for inspecting the equipment and hardware used by each act. The checklists and books will be reviewed when equipment is being set up and installed in each city the circus visits. Each circus unit will also hold annual safety days to discuss subjects relating to workplace safety.
Both OSHA and Ringling Bros. seem pleased with the terms of the settlement. Patrick Griffin, OSHA’s area director in Rhode Island, said of the settlement, “This agreement goes beyond this one case. It commits Ringling Bros. to continual, effective, and detailed corrective action that will address and enhance safety for all its aerial acts, so that catastrophic incidents, such as the Providence fall, and the needless worker injuries that resulted, never happen again.”
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is owned by Feld Entertainment. Stephen Payne, the Vice President of Corporate Communication for Feld Entertainment, said in a statement, “Clearly, you can never predict everything that might happen, but we feel confident that the steps that we’ve taken over the past year will make sure that an act like this or an accident like this doesn’t happen again.”