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OSHA investigates reason for fall of performers

In an incident that grabbed the attention of circus fans in Minnesota, authorities reported that an accident involving eight circus performers in Rhode Island was due to the failure of a clamp after the part failed. The clamp was part of a welded rigging developed by a husband-and-wife couple, and the wife was one of the victims who fell.

All eight acrobats were still hospitalized the day after the May 4 incident. Two of the victims were listed in critical condition, while two were listed in serious condition with the remaining four in good condition. None of the victims suffered life-threatening injuries despite a drop of an estimated 40 feet to the ground. A ninth performer was treated but not admitted to the hospital. The crowd was shocked by the incident, and some apparently thought it was part of the show.

An investigator with the Providence Fire Department did not list the reason for the accident and explained that the broken clamp was well within the appropriate weight parameters listed at 10,000 pounds maximum. The weight of the performers was an estimated 1,500 pounds at the time of the work accident. However, the movement of the device or of the acrobats could have placed increased pressure on the clamp. The parent company of Ringling Bros. Circus, along with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, continued to look into the accident. Feld Entertainment said it conducted regular inspections during tours and planned to replace all of the clamps on that particular unit as a preventative measure.

In a dangerous career, such as a circus performer, equipment needs to be regularly checked and maintained. If an employee suffers a work injury attributable to another's negligence, a personal injury attorney might be able to seek financial compensation for medical and other expenses.

Source: Reuters, "Failed clamp caused Rhode Island circus acrobats' plunge: officials", Ross Kerber, May 05, 2014

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