Play safe: the use of bouncy castles and inflatables

The number of injuries and fatalities arising from the unsafe use of bouncy castles, and other inflatable play devices, are on the rise. As summer approaches, we have prepared some simple guidelines to help those of you who intend to buy, hire or operate a bouncy castle or inflatable play device.

What to consider before buying a bouncy castle

buying tips for bouncy castlesBefore buying a bouncy castle, take care when reading the finer details so you know what you’re paying for.

Inflatable devices such as bouncy castles, slides etc. can be bought new or second hand from various manufacturers in the UK, including online. As a result, the way an inflatable is constructed, maintained and operated will differ and their condition can vary greatly. Sadly, if the inflatable appears to be cheap, there may be good reason for that!

For the safety of both children and adults at your event:

  • Ensure the inflatable has been built to the current British Standard of BS EN 14960. Inflatables that reach this standard will be labelled.
  • Check the label to find out when the device was made, how many people can use it and how tall they should be.
  • Check the inflatable has been tested for safety by a competent person. New inflatables will have been tested by the manufacturer, but it’s vital that the inflatable is assessed annually by an inspector registered with PIPA or ADIPS.
  • Bouncy castles and inflatables need at least 6 anchor points, however this will increase with size - always check the manual to confirm exactly how many are needed. If a manual hasn’t been provided then you can’t be sure how many tie points are required for safe use, so contact the manufacturer for advice.
  • Make sure all anchor points have been used with metal ground stakes measuring at least 380mm long and 16mm wide. The anchor points on the inflatable should have a welded metal O or D ring fitted to the end. If ground stakes cannot be used then use a system of ballast using water or sand barrels, or tying down the inflatable using vehicles that will give at least the same level of protection. Each anchor point should weigh the equivalent of 163 kgs.
  • Once inflated, check that the outer edges of the device’s front step line-up with the centre of each of the front uprights; under no circumstances should the width of the step be less than this. The whole unit should look symmetrical and ensure that those sections which ought to stand upright, do so. If it looks misshapen there may be internal problems which make bouncing on the device unpredictable, and as such, unsafe.
  • Make sure you restrict the number of users on the inflatable, keeping strictly to the limit stated in the user manual or on the label.
  • Don’t exceed the user height limit and keep taller/larger users separate from smaller ones.
  • There should be no eating or drinking on the inflatable, and anyone obviously intoxicated must not be permitted use.
  • Finally, do not use the inflatable in high winds. If winds pick up after you have assembled the inflatable, stop play and make sure all users leave the immediate area.

Hiring a bouncy castle or inflatable play device

Alternatively, if you’re hiring a bouncy castle or inflatable play device, the PIPA Inflatable Play Inspection Scheme recommends you ask your hire company the following:

  • Are you conforming to the PIPA Scheme?
  • Have you carried out the daily checks on the equipment as required by EIS7?
  • When was the equipment last inspected?
  • Will I get full instructions on its safe operation?
  • What is the inflatable's PIPA tag?
  • Can I see the current PIPA test certificate for this equipment?
  • If I set it up with the blower unit at 1.2 metres distance will it still fit on my site?
  • Is the equipment clearly marked with limitations of use (max. user height etc.)
  • Are you a member of a relevant association (AIMODS, TIPE or BIHA)?
    (Check this against the relevant website listing (sSee participating organisations)
  • Do you have Public Liability Insurance?

For more information and advice, check out the PIPA website



Post date: 04 Apr 2016

Back to listing page