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What are your responsibilities when you or your company hire out a bouncy castle or inflatable?

What is expected of you when you set up a bouncy castle company to hire out inflatables as a business?

You have a responsibility to do all you can to keep users of your inflatables as safe as possible and reduce the possibility of accidents by eliminating as much risk as possible.

You can do this by complying with the European standard Inflatable play equipment safety requirements and test methods which are laid out in the EN14960-2019 European safety standard. 

It would be best if you were compliant with this standard in your equipment and your work method. 

So what’s involved in compliance with the standard?

The manufacturers, importers and sellers of inflatables have a responsibility to comply with this standard; also, you, the company or person hiring out the inflatable, has a responsibility. 

First, the equipment: All inflatables that you hire out should have a safety test report. If you buy new castles, they should come with an initial safety test report that is proof of conformity. The test should be carried out and signed off by a registered inflatable inspection body. 

Remember all the inflatables in your hire business must also be submitted for an annual safety test. If they don’t pass, they are not fit for use and should not be presented for hire. 

Background to the Standard

The standard was first introduced in 2006 and has since been updated in 2013 and again in 2019. The IIHF represent Ireland for the NSAI (National Standard Authority of Ireland) on the review committee. All countries in Europe and the UK have adopted the standard. 

The original basic standard refers to all inflatable play equipment that can be bounced or slid on and applies to equipment intended for use by children 14 years and under. But it also must take into account that users other than the intended age will also make use of it.  

I have carried out post-accident investigations for some local authorities, inflatable operators and legal representatives of injured users in preparing reports that may be used as evidence in court. The standard becomes the default reference in determining why the incident happened and who, if anyone, was responsible. It is our experience that if you, as a contractor, did not comply with the standard, you may be on the path to being found negligent.  

The standard is a 44-page document that can be purchased online. 

We will outline here only the main issues that concern you, the person or company hiring out the inflatable. 

For the purpose of this article, we will presume your bouncy castle (or other type of inflatable) has a safety cert that was issued by a registered inspection body, and that is current. 

Setting up an inflatable on grass or earth 

  1. You must make sure the site is big enough to fit the inflatable, bearing in mind that you need free space all-round the inflatable. 
  2. The site must be level or have a slope of no more than 5 degrees.
  3. The site must be clear of debris and or sharp objects on the surface.
  4. You must keep the inflatable away from overhead power lines or other hazards such as fences or trees.   

Wind speed

Wind speed is one of the most important considerations to be taken into account when using or setting up an inflatable. Blowing away is the cause of most serious accidents. The wind speed must be no more than Force 5 on the Beaufort scale (maximum 24mph/38km/h), which is when small trees in leaf begin to sway.

The best way to comply with this requirement is to be aware of the wind forecast in your area by using a wind app. But this alone is not sufficient. You must also take into account the site’s vulnerability to the wind, as the wind app information will only give you a general guide. You will not have the information of where the wind app information is sourced and it may be sourced far from your site. 

Best to use a handheld anemometer. If the forecast is for increasing wind, then you must warn your customer to deflate the unit in the event of the wind increasing above the allowed speed. 

Anchoring the inflatable to the ground

All anchor points on the inflatable must be used at all times. Ground fixing pegs must be a minimum of 380mm long and 16mm thick, rounded at the top. No more than 25mm must protrude above the ground. You must insert the anchor pegs at an angle of 30 to 45 degrees away from the inflatable. 

When the bouncy castle is fully inflated, it is time to carry out the daily checks. You will do this every time the inflatable is made ready for use. 

  1. is the site level enough? No overhead wires/trees? Plenty of clear space around the inflatable?
  2. AII of the anchorages are in place and secure?
  3. Landing mats, if needed, in position?
  4. No significant rips or holes in the fabric and seams (8mm finger rod)?
  5. Is internal pressure sufficient?
  6. Correct blower?
  7. Firmly connected to the blow tube?
  8. Blow tube at its furthest extent and 90 degrees to the unit?
  9. No exposed electrical parts or wires?
  10. No damage to switches, plugs, or sockets?
  11. Cables routed out of harm’s way?
  12. Are mesh guards intact on the blower?
  13. All electrical equipment is suitable for outdoor use?
  14. Are electrical reels fully unwound?

It is good practice to have a checklist of the above for each and every time the inflatable is used and to file this information in case it is needed later.

You can check the internal pressure that will ensure the unit has a sound a reliable footing by standing on the step approximately 50 cm in from the front and 50cm in from the outside edge. If you do not touch the ground, the pressure will be sufficient. 

If any faults are found during this check, the inflatable should not be used until the issue has been corrected. 

You can do a course that will qualify you to be an operator and attendant of inflatables. The qualification award will be issued by the RPII (Register of Play Inspectors International). It’s a one-day course that covers all the above in much more detailed explanations. The IIHF provide this course, and you can contact us at info@iihf.ie or give us a call, and we can have a chat. 

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