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SALT LAKE CITY — Rep. Val Potter, R-North Logan, said he worked for 13 years for a manufacturer of amusement rides as a sales marketing manager. He and other engineers he talked with wondered why Utah didn't have a safety inspection program for rides like 44 of the 50 states.
Potter is sponsoring HB381, which would create rules for safety inspections and require parks to use nationally recognized standards and report injuries. The bill passed through the House Transportation Committee Friday with a vote of 11-1.
Potter said having a basic safety standard is the right thing to do. Currently injuries from amusement rides are not required to be reported to the state, so it is unknown how Utah compares to states with regulations, but there have been injuries and fatalities, according to Potter.
"I worked in the industry long enough to know that every year the rides got bigger, faster (and) scarier … this is a very important industry, people love their amusement rides. With so much happening in this industry, we’ve been very blessed," Potter said.
The bill gives the authority for regulation to the Utah Department of Transportation because it oversees the Utah Passenger Ropeway Safety Committee, which helps with the safety of ski lifts. The bill was modeled after this system.
"The goal is to ensure safe operation of amusement rides in the state of Utah and the safety of those who pay to be on the amusement rides," Potter said.
Potter said the state has some liability for amusement park incidents whether there is a law requiring inspections or not.
Larry Mullenax, executive director of the Utah State Fair Corporation, said the legislation is in the organization's best interest and would help keep the public safe. He said the corporation does inspections for its rides and does not see many injuries.
"Those operators are professionals, we hire the best. We like to think that we have a very safe fair, incidents are very, very low or minor," Mullenax said.
But Mullenax does have some concerns. He said the timing to get daily inspections during the week of the 24th of July with so many rides in operation would be difficult.
Linda Hull from the Utah Department of Transportation said the department does not have amusement park expertise, but it would be able to carry out the program the way it is presented in the bill. She said it would be similar to the Ropeway Committee and would become financially independent after the first few years.