November 30, 2016
BOSTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Florida-based Walker International Events on Feb. 4, 2016, for 14 serious violations of workplace safety standards in connection with a circus tent collapse in Lancaster, New Hampshire on Aug. 3, 2015, during a severe thunderstorm. The collapse killed a young child and her father, injured dozens, and endangered both workers and spectators.
OSHA found that – despite repeated National Weather Service and other warnings of severe storms – Walker elected to proceed with a scheduled outdoor circus performance. The company also failed to install the outdoor circus tent safely as directed by Walker’s engineering plan, or in keeping with industry standards. For these reasons, OSHA cited the company for violation of section 5(a)(1) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, that requires employers to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. The agency also cited Walker for violations of electrical standards. Walker contested its citations to the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
OSHRC Judge William S. Coleman has now approved a settlement between the department and Walker International Events. Under its terms, Walker has accepted the citations, verified that the violations have been abated and will pay $24,000 in fines. In addition, Walker, which is currently out of business, will not resume operations unless it first implements a comprehensive safety and health management plan that includes procedures for the safe installation of outdoor tents with provisions for inspections of each tent installation.
“While nothing can undo the tragedy in Lancaster, this settlement does seek to prevent future such occurrences. If and when Walker International Events resumes operations, it must first put into place a comprehensive safety and health plan to ensure the proper erection and maintenance of tents and its adherence to OSHA standards,” said Michael Felsen, the New England regional solicitor of labor. “This case serves as a reminder to employers everywhere that severe weather can present significant safety and health hazards to their employees, and that they must take adequate precautions to address those hazards.”
OSHA’s Concord Area Office conducted the original inspection. Robin Ackerman of the department’s regional Office of the Solicitor in Boston litigated the case.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Concord office at 603-225-1629.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.