May 6th, 2014
02:47 PM ET

Daredevil: 'There's No Such Thing as a Safety Standard in This Industry'

single failed clamp caused an aerialist stunt in Providence, Rhode Island to crash to the ground on Sunday and injure nine performers, according to the lead investigator for the city's fire department.

As ongoing investigations continue, safety regulations in the circus have come under scrutiny.

"There's no such thing as a safety standard in our industry," said acrobat and daredevil Nik Wallenda on "New Day" Tuesday.

Wallenda, a 7th-generation member of the famous “Flying Wallendas” family, suggests more collaboration between circus performers and government regulators could help prevent accidents like this in the future.

"We have to step up as an industry and we have to take the lead on this and work with the government so that it's done in a proper way," he said.


While a number of circus accidents have made headlines in recent years, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) can not provide information on how common workplace accidents are for circus performers.

Plus, according to CNN reporter Jean Casarez, licensing regulations do not require any state inspections.

This makes creating standardized safety procedures across the industry a difficult process.

On top of that, there seems to be a lack of agreement among policy-makers and performers on safety mechanisms.

According to Wallenda, just because performers have safety mechanisms, it doesn't necessarily mean they're safe. He says a vast majority of accidents in the industry are not related to the performer, but "it's the rigging that actually causes the accident."

As a result, individual circus performers often look at government regulations that might require them to wear safety harnesses and tethers as problematic.

Wallenda said he encountered this problem while preparing for his adventure crossing Niagara Falls. The government required he wear a harness, but he felt uncomfortable and unsafe with the way the company in charge handled the equipment.

"I was scared of that walk because of that tether that they put on me and the way they put it on me," he said.

"When outside resources come in and tell you how to do something you've done for 200 years, it makes it very difficult."


Wallenda says he wants to go to Washington to help create guidelines or a guidebook to oversee circus work.

He's also suggested mandating rigging inspections by an outside organization and tracking all equipment and the length of time its used.

As a benefit, Wallenda said if regulations can eventually cover everything, insurance costs would probably go down as well.

His biggest takeaway, though, is for performers to be proactive with their safety precautions.

“There are certain standards and it's about educating the people that are doing the rigging and often the performers themselves,” he said.

Nik Wallenda shows Kate Bolduan how to walk on a high-wire before his adventure crossing the Grand Canyon on June 21st, 2013.




READ: Investigator: Failed clamp caused circus accident

READ: 'Human chandelier' falls: 9 performers hurt in Rhode Island circus accident

READ: Kate Learns to Walk on High-Wire

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  1. Rich

    As a former Circus crew, rigger and Ring Boss I noticed the very same as you for the "Troupes", things that Ringling "owned" were done to indistry standard, with equipment purchased from reputable suppliers with detailed specifications etc. However most "Troupe" acts, contractors of a sort, design, build, maintain, install, operate and own their apparatus and most time with materials from their country of origin. You may be taking it too personally 🙂 However crude these rigs may be, they usually accept the responsibility. so I say live and let live?

    May 8, 2014 at 12:21 pm | Reply
  2. mbrd

    maybe i am just taking this all too personally...

    this strikes me as an example of irresponsible journalism on the part of cnn, and of irresponsible editorializing on the part of nik wallenda. wallenda admits that he has no factual information to go on, that he can only speculate at this time, and then implies that fault for this accident must lie with some person or persons who established the rigging for this act, not with the performers.

    in twenty five years rigging in the entertainment industry, i have had many experiences with circus rigging and performers, from the relatively well funded, three ring, arena and multi mast tent shows like ringling and cirque, to the more traditional and smaller, one ring shows like circus flora. in my observation over that time, the most notably consistent rigging phenomenon has been that the performers, or their friends or family members do their own rigging, to the greater extent that the venue, promoter, or circus company will allow.

    i guess i would like to know the facts about the carabiner (which, by the way, is not even remotely a "clamp" of any sort) that failed. was it aluminum? was it carbon steel, or maybe 316 stainless? could it have been 304 stainless? was it of reputable manufacture? was it an oval, "D" shaped, modified "D", or "HMS" shape? was it side loaded? what was it rated for, and was that rating a working load limit, or a breaking strength?

    it appears that cnn has seen fit to capitalize on nik wallenda's propensity for self aggrandizement at the expense of analysis or factual reporting… thanks for nothing.

    and thanks, nik, for irresponsibly and illegitimately maligning my trade. please do set up your own gig and leave me out of it.

    of course, i might just be taking this too personally...

    May 7, 2014 at 3:19 am | Reply
    • andrew MUNRO

      mbrd: too personally? no, i don’t think so.

      May 8, 2014 at 3:59 pm | Reply

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