ARE INFLATABLE BOUNCE HOUSES SAFE?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions when people are considering renting an inflatable for their first time. The answer is “it depends”. The safety of an inflatable bounce house depends on many factors which we will discuss throughout this article. But first you may be asking “is this person qualified to write this article and are they an expert on this topic?” Well, I would say an expert would be someone who works for the insurance industry and investigates how and why accidents occur on inflatables. I am not an expert. However, I have owned an entertainment and party rental company for 12 years which has been responsible for installing and running over 20,000 inflatables over those years and I have personally attended over 300 events with inflatables to witness firsthand how inflatable’s have been installed and supervised. I have also had to investigate accident claims on our own inflatables. Rest assured that to date, we have been blessed not to have been responsible for any injuries on an inflatable and there are reasons for that which we are going to discuss. So, let’s jump into this topic and find out what to look for.
The major areas we will discuss are installation, weather, and the running or supervision of the inflatable. We will start with the installation. A safe installation is the first step to ensure the safety of an inflatable. Let me explain. When an investigation happens for an aircraft accident, they start by trying to put the aircraft back together again. The reason they do this, is they want to be able to determine where the problem started and then decide if it was an equipment malfunction, something missed during a regular inspection or operator error. In a sense, it is similar to a game of dominos. They want to find that first problem which created a chain reaction of events that lead to the accident. It all starts with regular inspections.
Regular Inflatable Bounce House Inspections
What should a regular inspection include? Inspections on inflatable rides include checking the anchor points, seams, safety signs, and cleanliness. We start with the anchor points because they are key to keeping the inflatable secured to the installation point. What we look for here are ripped or torn straps and broken stitching. It is common when installing with stakes, that a hammer or sledge hammer may strike part of the anchor strap tied around the stake while being hammered into the ground. When this happens, it is possible to break strands of the anchor strap and compromise the holding strength. These straps must be removed and replaced. There is no repairing the strap.
The next inspections are the seams. Faulty seams can be difficult to identify and can be responsible for an inflatable unit being too soft, but we have found listening for the sound of air escaping from the seams will identify where too much air is coming out and where the seams are failing. The exit and entry points are typically going to have the most wear, so we start there and then check the stress points and any stairs on the units, and then inspect the rest of the seams. To repair seams correctly, the unit must be cut open from the bottom and repaired internally. These repairs must be done at a professional repair facility like The Fun Ones in Illinois.
The final inspection step is to make sure the safety signs are secure and legible and the unit is clean. Every inflatable unit manufactured in the USA is required to have a safety sign on it with instructions and a manufactured date. If you get delivered to your event an inflatable without a safety sign, beware of the safety of the unit. Over the years, we have acquired many small inflatable companies. Some of these companies had units without safety signs and manufacturer information. Almost all were purchased from China manufacturers and were not made for commercial use. We found the stitching and anchor points do not withstand commercial use. When small companies are starting out, some of them buy cheap inflatables from China because that is all they can afford. Make sure to ask if what you are ordering is made by a manufacturer in the USA.
Whether a unit is clean or not is usually an area that an average person can see. Many companies will tell you they “clean and disinfect after every rental”. Have you ever wondered how they do this when they pick it up the night before at 10pm in the dark and they are delivering the same unit to you at 8am? It means they open the unit at your event and hope it’s clean. If it is not, it means they inflate it at your event site and clean it there. It is the only way it can be done. Whether the person setting it up has the cleaning supplies and the extra time to clean it is the real issue. Make sure your unit is clean before they leave.
END OF PART 1 – INFLATABLE BOUNCE HOUSE SAFETY