This is a big question and the IIHF (Irish Inflatable Hirers Federation) are getting asked this question regularly. When we hear people asking this question we presume they are also referring to all kinds of constant flow inflatables such as Bouncy castles, Slides, Obstacle courses combos and the many many other inflatable games on the market.
Bouncing castles and other related inflatables provide the best and healthiest fun available. With covid isolation hopefully coming to an end we need to get our younger generation off the screens and back to more physical activity. An hour on an inflatable is as good if not better than an hour at the gym.
What parent doesn’t want this for their children?
What risk do Bouncy Castles pose?
This assessment of risk is predicated on the fact that all play has risks. Play and risk are intrinsically linked. No risk No play. Risk and play are fundamental to development. Imagine you invite 3 or 4 children to play in your typical back garden say 5mt x 5mt completely flat with a perfect picket fence all around and no obstacles or trip hazards. Yes they can play but the play will be limited and with almost no challenge. The risk to the children will be extremely low but so will the play value.
Now introduce a ball. The play value will rise but also the risk. Then introduce a seesaw. Now the risk rises again but the play value increases dramatically. If we go further and introduce hired inflatables such as a bouncing castle, slide or obstacle course then risk and play value rise dramatically again.
Acceptable vs Unacceptable Risk
Now we must distinguish between acceptable risk and unacceptable risk.
It is our responsibility as adults, legislators, manufacturers, and operators of inflatable equipment to make every effort to seriously reduce the possibility of exposing inflatable users to unacceptable risk.
An inflatable operator can do this by strictly adhering to the European safety standard EN14960-2019 Inflatable Play Equipment Safety Requirements and test methods.
The company you use to hire your inflatables must comply with this standard both in their equipment and their method of work.
- The company you hire from must comply with the standard by having each inflatable submitted for an annual safety inspection by a registered inspection body or competent person.
- They should have documented evidence of the safety test result.
- They should make this documented evidence available to you before you make a booking or hire the inflatable.
- They should be competent and familiar with their work method reasonability under the EN14960 standard and possibly qualified as operators and attendants of inflatables under the R.P.I.I (Register of play inspectors international)
In simple terms a properly regulated bouncy castle is as safe as it can possibly be.
Any increased risk with more robust play associated with inflatable play will be deemed acceptable.
A non-regulated Bouncy Castle or other inflatables can present unacceptable and significant risk to users.
Anyone can buy a couple of low cost inflatables and set themselves up as a bouncing castle company while completely ignoring health and safety procedures.
Inflatables are often presented for hire that do not comply and are not fit for use.
They can have many faults that will contribute to increased risk of serious accidents.
- The pressure may be too low allowing the users to hit the ground while jumping or sliding.
- Low pressures can also lead to lack of stability
- Low pressures can inhibit the inflatables ability to safely carry the number of users intended by the manufacturer.
- The inflatable may not have enough anchor points to secure it to the ground and be at risk of blowing away or turning over.
- The anchor points may not be strong enough to hold the inflatable in place
- The inflatable walls may not be strong or tall enough to retain the users.
- There may be entrapments that will catch and trap body’s, parts of body’s such as head, arm or finger entrapments.
This list is not exhaustive.
So in conclusion the best way to keep bouncy castles as safe as possible is to avoid unregulated equipment and unregulated inflatable operators. Make sure you are hiring from reputable companies or individuals who carry public liability insurance.
Are bouncy castles safe?
YES! If the person hiring the equipment pays attention to the basic requirements mentioned above, then that will keep your children as safe as possible.
Having said all the above there is one more outstanding requirement for people hiring play inflatables SUPERVISION.
Supervision is required at all times. We must remember a bouncy castle is not a babysitter. The company you hire from should lay out clear operating instructions for the safe use of the inflatable that you hire in the hire agreement that you sign.
Remember the lowest price is not always the best option.
A full list of insured and regulated inflatable operators in Ireland is available on the IIHF website here.