OSHA: Circus tent in fatal New Hampshire collapse not erected correctly
Walker International Events Inc. cited for crushing, electrical, other hazards
The circus tent that collapsed in Lancaster during a sudden downdraft of air called a "micro-burst" on Aug. 3, 2015, was not properly erected and the circus operator, Walker International Events, did not follow repeated National Weather Service storm warnings, an inspection by the OSHA has found.
Two killed, dozens injured
The collapse killed two audience members and injured dozens of others, including two circus employees,
OSHA inspectors determined that the Florida-based Walker International Events did not erect the tent in accordance with the professional engineer's design and diagrams. The company's deviations included failing to:
- Use the required tent stakes.
- Properly anchor the stakes.
- Remove and replace damaged stakes.
- Disassemble and take down the tent amid expected winds exceeding 60 miles per hour.
Severe weather warnings ignored
The events company assembled the tent and began the performance even though the weather service issued seven severe weather and high-wind warnings during the day and preceding the microburst.
"Walker International Events' failures to erect the tent correctly and heed warnings of severe weather needlessly placed at risk the lives and well-being of its employees and everyone else in and around the tent that day," said Rosemarie Ohar Cole, OSHA's New Hampshire area director. "No enforcement action will bring the victims home to their families and community but we want to send a message to this and other employers to follow proper procedures at all times and take effective and appropriate action to prevent an incident such as this from ever happening again."
Other hazards found
OSHA also identified several other hazards that placed circus employees at risk of electric shock, burns, lacerations and struck-by injuries. These included numerous instances of ungrounded or misused electrical equipment; the use of inappropriate electrical equipment and connections in wet areas; lack of eye protection; unmarked exits; and lack of fire extinguishers inside the tent where employees worked with open flames.
As a result of these conditions, OSHA cited Walker International Events on Feb. 4, 2016, for 14 serious violations of workplace safety standards. Proposed fines total $33,800.