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Injuries, inflatables and risk

Is your church's bounce house dangerous?

In the past 15 years, rates of injuries related to bounce houses and inflatables have jumped 1,500% to a staggering average of 31 children per day (that's one every 45 minutes). Injuries range from scrapes, bruises and sprains to concussions, fractures — even paralysis.

Proper safety precautions are key to keeping kids safe — and your ministry's liability exposure to a minimum. Watch for these seven dangers.

Do you own your inflatable?

If your ministry owns inflatables, you have additional things to consider:

Required inspections and permits. Many states, including Texas, require that inflatables be formally inspected regularly. Your insurance company must sign off on these inspections; speak to your insurance agent about how to comply.

Additional liability. Speak to your insurance agent about liability exposure, which is different than that with rented inflatables.

Operator training. Make sure your operators are properly certified and trained in setting up, operating and tearing down the ride in all situations and conditions.

  1. Lack of supervision. There's no replacement for vigilant adult supervision. Post supervisors outside the inflatable, near enough to intervene as necessary. Things they should enforce:

    • No flips or somersaults, climbing on netting or walls, or horseplay allowed at any time.
    • Participants should remove all jewelry, shoes, eyeglasses, hair accessories or other sharp objects that could cause damage or injury someone else.
    • Respect age, size and occupancy limits.
    • Do not allow food, drink or gum inside the unit.
    • Make sure everyone is on their feet — not seated or lying down — while others are jumping.
    • Watch for sags or tears in the unit, and evacuate everyone immediately if it appears the unit is deflating.

  2. Inspections. Many states require bounce houses to be inspected regularly. There should be a sticker on the inflatable showing that it has passed inspection. You should also make sure the operators have the proper permits as well.

  3. Collisions. Many injuries occur when larger children collide with smaller children. The two most important steps you can take to prevent these types of injury are:

    • Keep children of similar size/age together. A height-measuring stick should be used and height and size limits strictly enforced.
    • Keep the group small. Clearly post the capacity limits — and enforce them. Too many children often leads to injury.

  4. Improper anchoring. Search on YouTube and you'll find videos of bounce houses flying away in the wind, overturning or spinning into traffic because they're improperly anchored. Make sure they’re anchored with stakes or sandbags at every tie-down point.

  5. Weather. Water, wind and lightning can make inflatables that much more treacherous. Bounce houses should be shut down in high winds, rain or storms; make sure the operator has a plan for all possible conditions.

  6. Amateur operators. You should rent your equipment from a reputable company with trained, certified operators whenever possible. Ask about their training, and make sure you're confident in their abilities well before your event. The rental company's staff should set up, operate and tear down the inflatable for your event. If you own your inflatable, make sure your staff has been thoroughly trained on the proper safety precautions and procedures and that your equipment has been inspected regularly.

  7. Improper or inadequate liability coverage. The rental company should be able to provide you with written proof of their current liability insurance policy. Additionally, you should talk to your insurance agent prior to your event to understand your ministry's liability exposure and coverage.

As with any ministry, proper planning and procedures are key to keeping your ministry's kids safe around inflatables. Discuss your even with your insurance agent to get additional insights on managing risk, your liability exposure and coverage, and keeping your kids safe.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice. Readers should use this article as a tool, along with best judgment and any terms or conditions that apply, to determine appropriate safety precautions for programs and activities.