HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A state official is vowing an overhaul of the database on Pennsylvania amusement park and carnival ride inspections and says the information will be posted online in a user-friendly system before next year's carnival season.
Michael Pechart, executive deputy secretary of the state Agriculture Department, told state House members on Wednesday that inspection reports will be posted online for each of the more than 9,100 registered amusement rides and attractions across the state.
He repeatedly told the committee that Pennsylvania is a model when it comes to amusement ride safety, but acknowledged that the department needed to improve how it compiles information. The agency receives reports online, by fax and by email, which complicates record-keeping, he said.
"The information (is) not easily understandable and user-friendly," he told members of the House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. "We must search at least three separate locations (to) ensure we have all the information concerning a particular ride, inspector, or incident."
Last year, Pechart said, more than 11 million people went to amusement parks and more than 5.2 million attended fairs and carnivals. Of that number, he said, only 293 riders reported injuries of which 60 required medical treatment — and most resulted from riders not following instruction or guidelines. That's less than five injuries per 1 million rides, he said.
The department's Bureau of Ride and Measurement Standards had already planned a complete redesign of the current database, which will cost $30,000 to $50,000, Pechart told lawmakers.
Concerns about the ride inspection program were first raised by the Pittsburgh-based PublicSource, which examined inspection records for amusement parks across the state and found many cases of missing records.
The public database will also benefit ride operators, said Allen Bartlebaugh, owner of Bartlebaugh's Amusements and director of the Pennsylvania State Showmen's Association, which represents the interests of transient ride operators.
"If Joe had a problem with his ride last week, then I'm going to check mine because now I know I might have a problem," he said. "So it's going to help everybody."