Safe Use of Bouncy Castles
Bouncy Castles and similar inflatables are one of the most popular activities at different events such as fund raising days, special activity days and local fayres with children who love jumping around on them. Community Centres also often either allow hired in bouncy castles or have their own to offer at children’s birthday parties.
Whilst they appear to be harmless fun, they have the potential to be the cause of real injury if they are misused, operated in bad weather or used without supervision of a responsible adult. Most of the injuries are caused by children bouncing off the inflatable on to the ground, being hit by other children or just falling awkwardly. Recently two high profile cases led to the tragic loss of life. In one case, it appears the equipment may not have been secured appropriately and in another case, the bouncy castle may have exploded.
If you are thinking of hiring an inflatable / bouncy castle at your event, then we would recommend the following is checked with the hire company:
- The inflatable fully complies with the safe use and operation of play inflatables, including bouncy castles guidance issued by the PIPA Inflatable Play Inspector Scheme. This guidance can be downloaded from www.pipa.org.uk
- Employees are suitably experienced and well trained adults. This would be important to check if the company is responsible for the setting up, operation and supervision of the bouncy castle instead of your group
- If you are to operate the bouncy castle yourselves, then you need to ensure that you are provided with written instructions about the safe setting up, operation and supervision of the equipment, and that the name and address of the manufacturer or supplier is clearly marked upon it.
In addition to this, the following safety instructions should also be provided:
- Children should not be allowed to use the bouncy castle if there is a high wind or in wet weather (inflatables can flip over, and slippery surfaces may cause injury)
- The castle must be adequately secured to the ground and situated away from obstacles such as fences or overhead power lines
- Soft matting covering hard surfaces must be placed adjacent to the front or open sides
- Ensure that the blower is situated at least 1-2 metres from the inflatable – serious injuries may occur if a user strikes the blower unit
- There should be responsible adult supervision, paying close attention to the children at play at all times during its use
- The number of children using the bouncy castle must be limited to the number recommended in the hire company’s safety instructions. There must be no overcrowding
- A rota system for different age or size groups should be operated, together with the observance of an age limit of users
- All children must be made to remove footwear, hard or sharp objects such as jewellery, buckles, pens and other similar pocket contents. Eating while bouncing or performing acrobatics must not be allowed.
So long as the above is followed, in the event of a claim, it should be evident that you have done all you could to minimise the risk of injury and your insurers would hopefully consider the claim fully.
Insurance and Bouncy Castles for Charities / Community Groups
Do not assume that your public liability insurance would cover you for using inflatables such as bouncy castles. Some insurers outright refuse to offer cover.
If the inflatable equipment is to be run by a third party, it would be normal for them to have their own insurance. This offers a great deal of protection for your charity or community group but there are still important considerations for your group too. What if the insurance covering the hiring group fails? What then would happen? There are potential exposures for your organisation if a third party operating a bouncy castle on your premises or at your event fails.
Equally, if you are relying on your own insurance to cover the bouncy castle activity, there are a number of things to check. Your insurance may exclude cover, in which case, clearly it would not be appropriate for you. Your insurance may well cover the activity but place conditions on that cover. these might relate to the checking and maintenance of the equipment or how the activity is managed. This is also very important as failing to meet a condition attached to the use of inflatables might make your insurance cover invalid and a claim might not be met.
If you are a community group or charity looking to use a bouncy castle and want some advice, please get in touch.