Whenever an outdoor, temporary structure is built for commercial reasons (like a music festival, for instance), it is crucial for event organizers to take all reasonable precautions. A giant tent may not seem dangerous, but accidents involving wind or structural collapse can be deadly.
Such a scenario seems to occur at least once each year somewhere in the United States – including here in the Bay Area. Last fall, a tent collapse at a traveling circus in New Hampshire was responsible for two deaths and dozens of injuries. An investigation into the accident revealed that the company responsible for setting up the tent failed to erect it properly and also ignored multiple high-wind warnings from the National Weather Service.
The accident was investigated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration because at least two circus employees were injured. OSHA inspectors determined that the tent had not been erected in accordance with specific diagrams provided by a professional engineer.
The tent also should have been taken down (and performances cancelled) when wind speeds were forecast at more than 60 miles per hour. The company reportedly decided to hold a performance that day despite seven high-wind warnings.
In all, OSHA cited the company for 14 serious violations and proposed fines of nearly $34,000. The company will likely need to pay this amount in addition to any personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits that may have been filed by attendees and their families.
Whether it’s a circus, a music festival, a traveling carnival or any other event, anyone who buys a ticket has a reasonable expectation of safety. When event organizers fail to protect those in attendance, they may be held legally liable.