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Published: Saturday, 10/11/2008

U.S. fines Cedar Point $195,000 over safety

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

While surveying the Millennium Force roller coaster at Cedar Point earlier this year, some visitors from Toledo say they saw a potential 300-foot plunge they didn't like.

The visitors, inspectors from the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration, yesterday issued $195,000 in fines against the Sandusky amusement park for

a variety of safety violations.

Among the complaints was a failure by Cedar Point to protect employees working on a maintenance catwalk on the popular 310-foot-tall roller coaster.

'Personal protective equipment was not provided for employees exposed to falls of approximately 300 feet while working/walking on the open-sided catwalk of the Millennium Force,' inspectors said in safety citations against the park and its Castaway Bay Resort.

The citation said that on April 27, employees were spotted working high up on the roller coaster but didn't have fall-protection systems that include lifelines, anchored points, lanyards, and body harnesses.

Robin Innes, a Cedar Point spokesman, said company officials are reviewing the

citations and could not comment on them yet, but he added, 'Guest and employee safety is a top priority of Cedar Point.'

Jule Hove, area director of the OSHA office in Toledo, said the citations that stemmed from an inspection over several days in April and July were delivered to the company yesterday.

She said the OSHA inspection was conducted in response to a complaint by an employee at Cedar Point, which is owned by Cedar Fair LP of Sandusky.

The federal agency cited Cedar Fair for four infractions classified as 'willful,' which is the agency's most egregious category of violation. Two other infractions were listed as 'serious.'

Cedar Fair was fined $195,000 in proposed penalties, including $112,500 for violations at its Castaway Bay indoor water park near the entrance to Cedar Point, and $72,500 at the amusement park itself.

Park officials have 15 working days to contest the citations or seek reductions in the penalties. They were given until Dec. 1 to complete corrections.

Besides the safety problems found at Millennium Force, OSHA inspectors said lifeguards at the Castaway Bay water park were not properly trained in measures to protect themselves when exposed to blood while providing first aid.

Additionally, the firm did not offer all lifeguards hepatitis vaccines as required, OSHA claimed.

The agency also found safety violations at Cedar Point's Blue Streak roller coaster during an inspection on July 1. A catwalk lacked a standard guardrail and the park failed to take adequate measures to protect employees from falling.

In 2005, Cedar Point paid $6,500 to settle an OSHA case involving five violations of federal safety laws.

Contact Gary Pakulski at: gpakulski@theblade.com or 419-724-6082.



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