We reported on the tragic accident that injured nine Ringling Bros. performers and staff back in May.
The circus and the accident has been under investigation since then by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This week OSHA announced their verdict that Ringling had rigged the chandelier, that suspended eight acrobats by their hair, incorrectly. OSHA fined the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus $7,000, the maximum fine they could impose.
The investigation centred around a single carabiner. The carabiner was certified to hold a weight of 10,000 lbs (4,500 kgs) and the rig plus performers weighed around 1,500 lbs (680 kgs). However, the carabiner had been attached to three points. According to OSHA this violated safe practice and the manufacturer's instructions; the carabiner should have only been loaded at two points along its major axis.
“This created a triaxial loading situation as opposed to the proper loading situation where the carabiner is loaded only at two points along its major axis,’’ OSHA said in a statement. “This improper manner of loading resulted in the carabiner being overloaded, causing the carabiner to fail and having all eight employees attached to the rigging fall to the ground.’’
This has led to calls for the US circus industry to implement "a systematic design approach for the structures used in performances".
Feld Entertainment, which operates the circus, disagreed with the findings but did say they would conform to OSHA's recommendations in the future.
Readers of this blog are likely to understand the importance of safety in aerial circus, even if you are rigging much simpler apparatus than Ringling Bros. For a guide to the basics of rigging aerial acrobatics equipment please see here.