Tyler's Law Impacting Ohio Fairs

By:Jeffrey K. Lewis, Attorney and Research Specialist, Agricultural & Resource Law Monday, July 12th, 2021
Ferris wheel under blue sky.

Fair season is in full swing, and after a year off, fair goers are eager to indulge in fair food, games, and rides.  Additionally, thanks to a new law, Ohio is hoping to make this the safest fair season yet.  This comes after the tragic death of Tyler Jarrell at the 2017 Ohio State Fair.  The 18-year-old fair goer passed away when the Fire Ball ride broke apart.  Tyler and seven others were injured in the accident, which was later blamed on excessive corrosion.  To help prevent another tragedy, Governor DeWine signed House Bill 189, also known as “Tyler’s Law”, into action last November.  Tyler’s Law, which is enforced by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (“ODA”), strengthens Ohio’s existing laws on amusement rides, adds additional safety inspection standards, defines specific qualifications for ride inspectors, and outlines additional owner responsibilities.

Tyler’s Legacy on Ohio’s Amusement Ride Laws

It may come as a surprise, but the ODA is not only responsible for safe food, meat, dairy, and protecting Ohio’s livestock, crops, and plants; it is also responsible for ensuring the safety and wellbeing of Ohioans and visitors from across the world when they visit Ohio’s fairs, festivals, and amusement parks.  Specifically, the ODA is responsible for ensuring that all amusement rides are safe for ride enthusiasts.  Below is a brief overview of Ohio’s current amusement ride laws and the ODA’s new requirements enacted by Tyler’s Law. 

Amusement Ride Permits.  Owners of amusement rides must apply for a yearly permit through the ODA.  The ODA will only issue a permit if the owner has submitted a completed application with inspection fees, provided proof of insurance, provided an itinerary of where the amusement ride will be operating, and proof that the ride has undergone and passed an initial inspection.  

Initial inspection, midseason inspection, and additional safety inspections.  Ohio law requires that all amusement rides complete an initial inspection and requires certain amusement rides to undergo a midseason inspection.  All inspections must be completed by authorized inspectors and the ODA may require additional safety inspections of any amusement ride throughout the year.  

Fatigue and Corrosion Review.  One of the key changes implemented by Tyler’s law is an owner’s obligation to complete a fatigue and corrosion review. These reviews are additional safety inspections to help prevent another tragedy like the one in 2017.  A ride owner’s obligations are determined by how their ride is categorized.  Ohio has categorized amusement rides as follows: 

  • “Low Intensity Rides” – includes all kiddie rides, carousels, go karts, and inflatable devises.  A kiddie ride is a ride that is primarily designed for children 48 inches and under. 
  • “Intermediate Rides” – all rides that are not Low Intensity Rides, Towers, or Rollercoasters. 
  • “Towers” – any amusement ride, other than a roller coaster, whose main body components reach a height of twenty feet or more. 
  • “Roller Coasters” – any ride licensed under Ohio law and whose main body components reach a height of fifty feet or more.  

Owners of any type of amusement ride must ensure that that their ride meets the manufacturer’s minimum requirements for inspection and testing.  If there are no manufacturer specifications, then an owner must ensure that the ride conforms to generally accepted engineering standards and practices. 

In addition to meeting a manufacturer’s specifications or accepted engineering standards, owners of Intermediate Rides, Towers, and Roller Coasters must also conduct a visual inspection of their ride looking for signs of fatigue and corrosion.  If fatigue or corrosion are found, the owner must discuss the findings with the ride’s manufacturer or a registered engineer and implement any suggested mitigation strategies.  Once an owner has completed their visual fatigue and corrosion review, the owner must document the findings and provide the ODA with a copy.  All documents must be maintained for the life of the ride and provided to any subsequent owner.  If an owner fails to implement and follow the suggested mitigation strategies, the ODA can immediately shut down the ride.   

As it stands, owners of Low Intensity Rides and Intermediate Rides are the only category of owners obligated to follow the new fatigue and corrosion review rules.  Owners of Towers will be required to follow the new rules starting in April of 2022 and Owners of Roller Coasters will have to comply starting in April of 2023. 

Records of storage and/or out state operation.  Tyler’s law also requires owners of portable amusement rides to provide documentation providing all locations and dates where the ride was stored for 30 days or more.  Additionally, an owner is required to provide documentation identifying all locations and dates where the ride was operated, if it was operated outside of Ohio.  

Ride Inspections.  Ohio law also establishes the minimum number of times a ride must be inspected each year as well as the number of inspectors that must be at each inspectio

Ride Category

Number of Inspections

Number of Inspectors for Initial Inspection

Number of Inspectors for Additional Inspections

Low Intensity 

1

1

1

Intermediate 

2

2

1

Towers

2

2

2

Roller Coasters

2

2

2

Maintenance requirements.  Owners are required to maintain maintenance, repair, pre-opening inspection, and any additional inspection records for each amusement ride.  An owner is required to keep these records for at least two years.  Owners must also provide checklists and training to any person who is to be performing ride maintenance throughout the ride’s operational cycle.  

Valid decals.  Owners of amusement rides are required to display a decal issued by the ODA representing that the owner and ride have complied with Ohio’s laws and are allowed to operate within the state.  If no decal appears, a ride should be prevented from operating until a valid permit is furnished by the owner.  

Rider Obligations.  Owners are not the only party with responsibilities when it comes to amusement rides.  Riders are prohibited from engaging in certain conduct that create an increased risk of danger for a rider and others around them.  A rider must: 

  • Heed all warnings and directions of an amusement ride; and
  • Not behave in any way that might cause injury or contribute to injuring self or other riders while occupying an amusement ride.

Conclusion.  Although amusement parks like King’s Island and Cedar Point are already subject to some of the additional safety measures of Tyler’s Law, this will be the first fair season with the new regulations.  Fair has provided generations of Ohioans with fond memories, joy, and reasons to celebrate, and through Tyler’s legacy, Ohio seeks to take all the steps necessary to try and ensure that fair is nothing but a happy occasion for all. To learn more about Ohio’s laws regarding amusement rides visit the Ohio Revised Code and the Ohio Administrative Code.