Ride inspections begin at NC State Fair

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Ride inspectors were at the fairgrounds Tuesday looking for safety violations or problems ahead of Thursday’s North Carolina State Fair opening.

The last the thing you want to think about at the top of a roller coaster is if the ride was properly checked out by ride inspectors.

WNCN Investigates wanted to know how thorough ride inspections were before the start of the fair, so we tagged along with the Department of Labor to find out.

“We’re basically pre-inspecting right now,” explained Bill Essick, supervising inspector for the Department of Labor. “A simple kiddie ride may take 30-40 minutes, and then you take stuff like some of the roller coasters around here it can take up to 2-3 weeks to inspect it.”

From the moment each ride is pulled off the truck, every piece is thoroughly checked for defects.

“We’re looking for any worn parts that need to be replaced, any parts that may be missing, screws, bolts fasteners,” said Essick. “We look at every component”

The state has a 100 percent rule, meaning every ride has to be set up and operated to exact manufacturer specifications.

If they’re not?

“We’ll make them remove it from the lot,” Essick said.

It’s a job these inspectors don’t take lightly.

“If it starts to get a lot of rust around here, they’ve got to replace it,” explained Steve Burris, holding a small pin the helps hold one of the rides together.

Safety is a passion Burris has pursued as an inspector for 20 years

“Every ride is important,” said Burris “Every bolt nut, electrical safety, the structure, the hydraulics. It’s just so much it’s hard to explain.”

During our visit, each inspector’s attention to detail was meticulous, and it has to be before hundreds of thousands of people pile into the State Fair, making all their work worthwhile.

“The best part for me is when I walk away from here at night,” said Burris, “Is knowing that I’ve done my best, and that somebody’s kid will walk home safe too.”

Once the ride has been inspected and certified by the North Carolina Department of Labor, it’s up the integrity of the ride owner to operate the device under requirements of the state law.

After the State Fair opens, inspectors will check every ride at least once per day, and will be monitoring ride operators as well to ensure they are following all safety protocols.

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