On July 26 at the Ohio State Fair, a horrifying amusement park ride left one person dead and seven others injured. I went out of my way to avoid the news stories and video of this incident. My family loves thrill rides – the “thrillier” the better – and it was just too easy to envision something like this becoming a personal tragedy. This week I inadvertently learned of the findings of the accident investigation, and felt compelled to address it.

Albert Kroon, Product Manager for the Dutch ride manufacturer KMG International BV, released the following statement on August 4. “The investigation included a visit to the accident scene in the company of a team of experts at the accident site in Columbus, Ohio. They reviewed video footage of the incident and conducted a metallurgical inspection of the ride. It was determined that excessive corrosion on the interior of the gondola support beam dangerously reduced the beam’s wall thickness over the years. This finally led to the catastrophic failure of the ride during operation.”

Corrosion is the cause of too many accidents each year. On November 22, 2013, the Donghuang II oil pipeline suddenly exploded in Qingdao in eastern China. The blast killed 62 people and injured 136. In 2009, a 50-foot-tall, high-pressure crystal production vessel at the NDK Crystal manufacturing facility in Belvidere, Illinois, exploded, injuring bystanders and killing a trucker at a nearby gas station. On May 20, 2000, as hundreds of NASCAR fans left a stock car race and were crossing a pedestrian bridge, an 80-foot section of the concrete and steel walkway snapped in half. Pedestrians fell 17 feet to the highway below. The bridge failure injured 107 people, 13 critically. And on August 19, 2000, a 30-inch natural gas pipeline owned by El Paso Natural Gas exploded, leaving an 86-foot-long, 46-foot-wide and 20-foot-deep crater. Twelve people died in the 1,200-degree fireball. The cause of all of these accidents was pipe or structural failure due to corrosion.

NACE, the National Association of Corrosion Engineers, has published its International Measures of Prevention, Application and Economics of Corrosion Technologies (IMPACT) study, which examines the current role of corrosion management in industry and government, and establishes best practices. According to the study, the global cost of corrosion is estimated to be $2.5 trillion. By using available corrosion control practices, it is estimated that savings of between $375 and $875 billion annually on a global basis are possible. And as the examples above indicate, the savings could include more than just dollars.

I know that corrosion control is a huge focus in the coatings industry. A search for “corrosion” on our website brought up 1,503 articles, blogs and news stories. Six of our 34 technical presentations at Coatings Trends & Technologies this month discuss corrosion control efforts. And I receive a large number of papers for publication in our magazine each year that also address this topic. Let’s keep up the good work in this vital field. And let’s hope that companies and governments around the world will open up resources and increase efforts to repair failing infrastructures, and that there will be a stronger focus on following best practices, so that fewer families will have to suffer the consequences of the problem of corrosion.