By Doyice Cotten
Inflatable houses (also known as bounce houses) have been gaining in popularity across the country. Google “inflatable house manufacturers” and you will find dozens, if not hundreds, of manufacturers. You find these houses operated in permanent locations, at festivals, and even available for rental at your home for a birthday party.
All physical activities carry with them the risk of injury to the participant – and inflatable houses are no exception as thousands of participants are injured each year. According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (April 2008), there were almost 18,000 injuries from inflatable houses during the 2005-2007 time period. This included over 5,000 fractures and more than 5,000 strain/sprain/dislocation injuries. Hence, the need for risk management is apparent. This article presents a few ideas and guidelines for the operator of an inflatable house. It is not meant to be all inclusive, but rather to start the operator thinking about safety and risk management.
The first thing that an operator needs, regardless of how small or large the business, is liability insurance. When there are thousands of injuries, there will certainly be some lawsuits. A second essential risk management tool is a liability waiver to be signed by the parent of the youngster (or the adult participant in larger inflatable houses). Beyond those two essentials, the following should be of help to operators.
Safety Rules for Inflatable House
These rules should be posted near the entrance to the inflatable house. They should be explained to all children either by the operator or the parent. It is crucial that all safety rules be enforced by the supervisor!
Things not allowed in house
- No Food Or Beverages
- No Shoes
- No Eyeglasses,
- No Jewelry
- No Hard Or Sharp Objects
- No Pets
- No Silly String, Confetti, Gum, Sprays, Or Other Sticky Substances
1- Maximum Age _____
2- Minimum Age _____
3- Maximum Weight _____
4- Max Number of Kids _____
5- Touch the walls
6- Bounce off the walls
7- Climb on or hang from any interior or exterior surface
8- Wrestle or tussle
10- Attempt to do flips
11- Collide with or land on other children
12- Empty your pockets before entering the bounce house
13- Exit immediately if inflatable begins to lose air
14- Sit down to exit
Guidelines for Operators
Most inflatable house accidents are caused by improper anchoring, high winds, and lack of supervision. These guidelines are general in nature and some of them may not fit your situation. Nevertheless, they can give you a starting point in doing some risk management for your business. Before a lawsuit arises, there must be an injury; eliminate or reduce the injuries and you eliminate or reduce the risk of a lawsuit.
1- The safety of the children depends on you. Personal supervision is absolutely required at all times. The adult supervisor should position himself or herself in close proximity of the entrance to the inflatable house and keep an eye on what is happening inside. ADULT SUPERVISION should be maintained at all times.
2- The operator should cover all operating and safety rules verbally — and should have signage with printed instructions as well. The operator may opt to have the parent go over the operating and safety rules with the child.
3- Do not leave the inflatable house unattended while children are using it.
4- If a child persists in breaking rules after being warned, remove the child from the house.
5- DO NOT allow any climbing or hanging on any interior or exterior surface of the house.
6- Children should be grouped according to size and age. Do NOT allow older children to jump with younger children. Establish and follow weight/age policies.
7- Do not exceed the maximum capacity/occupancy recommended by the inflatable house manufacturer at anytime. Exceeding the limit makes accidents more likely and can result in a collapse of the house.
8- If balls are allowed, restrict to blown-up beach ball or nerf balls.
9- Be sure your house is fully inflated and not sagging.
10- Do not allow children to be near the blower.
11- Remove any children who seem tired. A sitting child is likely to be fall or sit and be jumped on.
(For Outdoor Inflatable Houses)
1- Inflatable houses MUST be securely anchored to the ground at all times to prevent tipping, injury, or flipping. The house should be staked down or heavily weighted.
2- Be aware of WEATHER and possible changes:
- Do not operate the house in the rain
- Do not operate the house in high winds (exceeding 20 – 25 mph)
- Do not operate the house when grounds are wet (shock hazard)
- Do not operate the house when there is lightning.
3- In inclement weather, close the house, turn off the blower and deflate the house.
4- Check the temperature inside the inflatable house; temperatures can rise quickly.