ambulanceA year after an accident that left nine employees seriously injured, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has agreed to improve safety for its workers, in a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor.

Horrified spectators in Providence, Rhode Island watched on May 4, 2014 as eight aerialists performing an act called a “Hair Hang” plunged more than 15 feet to the ground. The injured include an employee who was struck by the falling workers. It was later determined that the accident was caused by the failure of a carabiner used to support the aerialists.

Circus fought citation, fine

OSHA’s inspection determined that the carabiner used to lift performers was not loaded according to manufacturer’s instructions. The agency cited the circus for one serious violation of occupational safety standards and proposed the maximum fine of $7,000. The circus initially contested its citation and penalties to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

“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,” said Patrick Griffin, OSHA’s area director in Rhode Island.

What will change

Under the settlement, the circus agrees to take the following actions on an ongoing basis:

  • All new and existing aerial acts will be reviewed by a registered professional engineer.
  • For each act, assemble and provide to each circus unit a technical book.
  • Develop a written checklist for equipment and hardware inspections for each act.
  • Each circus unit will conduct an annual safety day that will address employee safety topics.

The circus will also pay the full OSHA fine and submit documentation that the hazard has been corrected and preventive measures put in place. The settlement will become a final order of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission on May 13, 2015.

Feld Entertainment Inc., headquartered in Palmetto, Florida, owns the circus.