Details are still a bit thin on the ground surrounding this incident (at time of publication) but the similarities between this and the sad fatal accident in Harlow in 2018 are already ringing bells.
BS EN 14960 is the accepted standard across Europe for the safe manufacture and operation of inflatable play equipment and it speaks at length around the critical issues of secure anchorage and monitoring wind speed to ensure the anchorage is effective.
Most commercial inflatable play equipment on the market is designed to withstand winds gusting to about Beaufort Force 5 or 19-24 miles per hour. Whether it can actually do this depends on:
- using the correct stakes, hammered into the ground to the correct depth and at the correct angle.
- if the ground isn’t suitable for stakes, there must be sufficient weight on each anchorage point to resist the same amount of force the stakes would.
- all the anchorage points being in good condition, all being used, and the unit connected to them securely.
- there being no weak point anywhere on the anchorage; this can quickly lead to the rest ‘unzipping’ and the unit being taken by the wind.
Knowing what the wind speed is at the place the inflatable is actually used and how that is gusting and changing, means you can stay below the limit and take it out of use before the risk of blow away arises. Anemometers are cheap, easily available and take the guesswork out of assessing wind speed. Every inflatable unit should have one as part of its equipment!
The dynamics of an inflatable mean that once the wind takes it, it can quickly accelerate to the wind speed and if that wind speed is 30 mph, that’s the speed the unit can get to! Depending on the type and shape, it can also act as a wing, take off and fly until it either hits something or the wind drops.
Bouncy castles are easily set up and fun to use but poor design, maintenance and/or operation all too often lead to serious accidents. If you are hiring or using them or in some way responsible for them, make sure you use the right people that know how to keep them safe!
Melvin Sandell was HSE’s Operational Policy Lead for Fairgrounds and Theme Parks from 2009 to 2017. He was one of the prosecution experts for the manslaughter trial that resulted from the fatal accident involving an inflatable that blew away in Harlow in 2018.
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