PORT CLINTON - As thrill seekers eagerly await Cedar Point’s opening next month, state inspectors are hard at work ensuring those thrills are safe.
Cedar Point, which has 16 roller coasters, kicks off its summer season on May 6, but inspectors have been on the grounds for several weeks to thoroughly examine the safety of about 70 rides at the amusement park in Sandusky.
“(Inspectors) will climb every inch of every one of these rides,” said David Daniels, director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
The inspection and licensing of amusement rides across the state fall under the purview of the Department of Agriculture, which has eight inspectors working year-round at amusement parks, fairs and festivals. Cedar Fair, parent company of Cedar Point, also owns Kings Island near Cincinnati and 11 other amusement parks in the U.S. and Canada.
“We have been working since Cedar Fair's and all of the other amusement parks across the state of Ohio closed down last year to make sure that those rides are safe,” Daniels said.
The inspectors check all of the mechanics and operation, every harness, every seat belt, down to every last bolt of each ride, according to state inspector Ron Dean.
Daniels said he considers Ohio to have one of the most robust ride safety programs in the country.
The department’s Division of Amusement Ride Safety will inspect and sign off on every ride at Cedar Point and does so on annual basis prior to opening.
“Once the park opens, we will have put our hands on every ride in the park and given it the approval to operate,” Dean said.
After the state finished its inspection process, Cedar Point employees continue to check the rides on a daily basis throughout the season.
State inspectors then return around the middle of the season for additional spot checks, primarily observing ride operation. Outside those biannual inspections, inspectors also will come back in the event of a problem or an accident with a ride.
Dean said during the preseason inspections, finding any problems with the rides is extremely rare as all the rides are coming off of their “winter rehab,” when they are essentially torn down, maintained and reassembled.
“This stuff’s like a brand new car rolling off the showroom floor, so there really isn’t a lot that we find,” Dean said.
Daniels views ride safety as a sort of “three-way deal,” he said. In addition to inspection by both the state and the park itself, riders play a critical role as well — simply by obeying all of the rules for any given ride.
“Every rider has got a responsibility to do the things that they need to do to make sure that the ride is safe,” he said.
Daniels stressed that safety restrictions, such as height requirements or keeping hands inside the vehicle, are there for a reason — to keep all those at the park safe.
“Hopefully everybody has a safe opportunity to enjoy the thrill of some of the rides and biggest coasters in the United States,” Daniels said.