Hiring a Bouncy Castle/Inflatables
This guide relates to the types of bouncy castles and inflatable play equipment that is typically used at family fun days, fairs, street parties etc. The equipment is kept inflated by the use of a continuous powered inflator fan.
As an event organiser If you are thinking of hiring such equipment the onus is on you to ensure that the supplier has done everything that is required of them in terms of safety. This short guide will help you know what to look for to ensure that the safety of those using the equipment.
All inflatables used commercially in the UK must have been manufactured to the British Standard BS EN14960:2013. Inflatable play equipment purchased from a high street toy shop or online is likely to be unsuitable for commercial use and is unlikely to meet the requirements of BS EN14960:2013. Inflatables are usually powered by an electric (240v) continuous flow inflator that is constantly running whilst the inflatable is in use. Air may escape through the stitching and must continually be replaced otherwise the inflatable will collapse. The documentation provided to the hirer by the supplier should confirm that the inflatable has been manufactured in accordance with BS EN14960:2013. You should also ask the supplier for the following:
- PIPA or ADIPS Certificate to demonstrate that the integrity of the inflatable play equipment has been checked within the last 12 months. The electrically powered inflator should also be PAT tested regularly (Portable Appliance Testing).
PIPA is an inspection scheme set up by the inflatable play industry to ensure that inflatable equipment conforms to recognised safety standards. Equipment should carry a PIPA Tag indicating that it has been tested within the last twelve months. The tag details and further information may be found at www.pipa.org.uk. It should be noted that PIPA only relates to inflatable equipment under the scope of BS EN14960:2013 e.g. Bouncy castles, Inflatable slides and Obstacle Courses. Inflatable equipment such as Boxing Rings, Climbing Walls, Ball pools, Soft Play would require an ADIPS certificate.
ADIPS is the Amusement Device Inspection Procedures Scheme ensures amusement devices are regularly inspected and certified as safe for use by competent persons. You can find more information and check details at www.adips.co.uk.
- Public Liability Insurance Certificate
- Risk Assessment specific to the site/event
- Operator’s manual - guidance on the max numbers, recommended ages, do’s and don’ts
For advice on finding an inspector, please visit the Register of Play Inspectors International www.playinspectors.com. Suppliers may be a member of a trade association and subscription services e.g. www.tipe.co.uk or www.biha.org.uk . Whilst this is not mandatory, it normally indicates that they are well informed of current regulations and guidance.
The inflatable needs to be placed in a suitable location, away from trees, walls and bins. It should be located on level ground free from pot-holes and loose stones to minimise the chance of the inflatable turning over whilst children are using it.
You need to establish how the inflatable is powered i.e. from a mains electric socket or generator. Electrical cables and connections must be suitably rated for outdoor use. Cables can be tripping hazards if not adequately covered. Once the inflatable has been installed you are advised to visually check the condition of the cables, for any electrical tape, exposed wires and broken plugs.
The Inflatable must operate with the correct size power inflator as outlined in the Operators Manual. If the inflatable does not seem buoyant enough this could indicate that the powered inflator is too small, stitching has come undone or there is a tear in the fabric of the inflatable.
Safety mats should be provided at the entry and exit points, extra mats where the inflatable is indoors or on a hard surface.
At least the back and sides of the inflatable should be fenced off so children cannot touch the inflator fan or electric cables. This also minimises the risk of persons tripping over the metal anchor stakes.
Inflatable play equipment must have at least six anchor points and it is crucial that EVERY anchor point fitted at every level by the manufacturer is used irrespective of the weather conditions. For indoor use the inflatable must still be anchored to retain it’s shape, stop it moving and prevent it overturning. Where ground stakes cannot be used you are advised to consult the Operator’s Manual to establish an equally effective way to anchor the inflatable down (such as sand bags, weights or ground fixings) The Pipa Leadership Group support the stated opinion of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE):
If ground stakes cannot be used because of the surface (e.g. tarmac) use ballast with anchor points each weighing at least 163 kg and with suitable fixings to attach the guy ropes.
Anchors are of two types:
- Ground anchors to tightly secure the inflatable base, such that wind is prevented from getting underneath and causing lift
- High level anchors to support guy ropes in sufficient tension that assists in retaining the shape of the inflatable.
The supplier must take into account wind speeds in the risk assessment. The supplier should be using an anemometer regularly to measure wind speed in order to know when conditions deteriorate to the point where it becomes unsafe to use the inflatable play equipment. The Industry recommend that a maximum wind speed of 30-38 kph (19-24) mph is adhered to, Force 5 on the Beaufort Scale.
The supplier should also provide you with operational information i.e. the do’s and don’ts :
- Max numbers of children permitted at any one time in relation to height.
- Behaviour not permitted whilst using the castle
- Children should not climb on the walls of bouncy castles
- Shoes, belt buckles, possibly glasses removed and pockets emptied of keys
- No food, drinks or sweets to be consumed on the inflatable
- Must be supervised whilst in use by a person aged over 18 years old
- Maintain a means of escape in case of fire
- Ensure that litter does not block the blower air intake or vent
- Never deflate the inflatable whilst it is in use
- Store fuel used for generators safely in approved containers.
Before the first use each day the inflatable and the surrounding area should be checked to ensure that it is still adequately anchored and that there is no damage to the ropes tethering it. Visual inspections of the blower and cables should be undertaken to ensure that they have not been damaged or become blocked. Fencing should remain intact to the sides and back of the inflatable and any generators that may be used. Ensure that mats are in place at the entrance and exits.