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Overworked, underpaid carnival workers impact ride safety

It's that time of year when people along the Mississippi Gulf Coast will be heading to amusement parks, fairs, carnivals and other events where rides are among the most popular attractions. However, there is good reason to be cautious before getting on them. This is particularly true at "pop up" carnivals that come into town for a short time and then move on.

Just within the past month, there have been disturbing news stories of young people who were seriously injured or killed after being thrown from amusement rides. These accidents have been on the rise in the past decade. The Consumer Product Safety Commission reported an increase between 2007 and 2014 of 14,000 accidents that required emergency room treatment.

These tragic accidents can occur for any number of reasons. One watchdog group found that in most cases, patrons themselves were to blame because they failed to follow safety rules. However, as many as 30 percent of accidents were caused by operator error or equipment failure.

That's why it's essential to look at the people responsible for running the rides and the conditions in which they work. For traveling carnivals and fairs, the workers are often seasonal migrant workers from Mexico.

Worker advocates say that many of carnival workers labor long hours under grueling conditions for little money. One report found that some work as many as 80 hours a week. Some carnival companies hire people who have H-2B temporary work visas because they provide cheap labor. Under the law, they don't have to pay seasonal workers either minimum or overtime wages.

Not only are these workers responsible for operating the rides, but they are also the ones who must take down and set up the rides quickly as the carnival moves from location to location. The level of fatigue that naturally results from long hours and strenuous work, often in the hot summer sun, can lead to deadly mistakes.

When an accident occurs on an amusement ride, it can be a challenge to hold people accountable. Carnival companies, ride manufacturers and event sponsors often like to shift the blame. Mississippi attorneys can help victims get to the bottom of what happened, including the worker conditions, and fight to hold the right entities liable.

Source: NBC News, "Risky Rides: Carnival Workers' Grueling Hours May Threaten Safety," John Carlos Frey, accessed May 18, 2016

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