Land-borne inflatable amusement devices

Understand your occupational health and safety duties when supplying, installing or operating land-borne inflatable amusement devices, such as jumping castles and slides.

Health and safety risks

Land-borne inflatable amusement devices present health and safety risks when they are not properly anchored, or appropriate guarding is not in place. Young children have been killed or seriously injured whilst playing on inadequately anchored jumping castles that have been swept up by strong wind gusts. Children have also been seriously injured when electrical fans used to inflate devices have been inadequately guarded, allowing children to place their hands in them.

Legal duties

The Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) requires employers to, so far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain for its employees a working environment that is safe and without risks to health (OHS Act, section 21). Employers must also ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons other than their employees (for example, members of the public) are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the undertaking of the employer (OHS Act, section 23).

Self-employed persons must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons are not exposed to risks to their health or safety arising from the conduct of the undertaking of the self-employed person (OHS Act, section 24).

Part 3.5 - Plant of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 (OHS Regulations) applies to amusement structures. An employer or self-employed person must, so far as is reasonably practicable, identify all hazards associated with the use of an amusement structure (including an inflatable device) and implement risk control measures to eliminate or reduce any risks (OHS Regulations r97 and r98).

The Equipment (Public Safety) Regulations 2017 (EPS Regulations) identify amusement structures, including land-borne inflatable amusement devices, as prescribed equipment for the purposes of the Equipment (Public Safety) Act 1994 (EPS Act) and the EPS Regulations (EPS Regulations, regulation 6).

The EPS Act and EPS Regulations place duties on:

  • proprietors of prescribed equipment
  • designers of prescribed equipment
  • manufacturers of prescribed equipment
  • importers of prescribed equipment
  • suppliers/agents of supplies of prescribed equipment (including suppliers to lease prescribed equipment)
  • people who erect/install prescribed equipment, and
  • persons in charge of prescribed equipment

Duty holders under the EPS Act and EPS Regulations are required to ensure the equipment is safe and without risks to health and to identify hazards and control risks associated with the use of the equipment. Persons in charge of prescribed equipment must also notify WorkSafe Victoria of notifiable incidents involving prescribed equipment.

Risk control measures

Below are some of the common risk control measures that should be used to manage risks associated with operating an inflatable device.

Anchoring

Land-borne inflatable devices need to be adequately anchored, even when low winds are forecast, or the inflatable device is not operational. Refer to the manufacturers' recommendations relating to appropriate anchorage for each inflatable device.

The manufacturers' operations manual should provide guidance on how to securely anchor an inflatable device onto turf or a hardstand (for example, asphalt) and the maximum wind speed for which an anchoring system is rated.

Where the inflatable's anchorage system is not known or has been determined to be inadequate, guidance must be obtained from a competent person (for example, an engineer with knowledge of inflatable devices and anchorage systems).  Additional information on anchoring inflatable devices is available from Australian Standard AS 3533.4.1: Amusement rides and devices, Part 4.1: Specific requirements - Land-borne inflatable devices.

Monitoring wind speed

A system of work for regularly monitoring wind speed should be established to ensure that there is sufficient warning and detection of the maximum wind speed. It is recommended that an on-site wind speed meter (anemometer) is used, as this will provide more accurate wind speed monitoring than regional weather updates.

If monitoring indicates that the inflatable's maximum rated wind speed is likely to be exceeded, it should be deflated.

Persons operating the inflatable device should be trained in procedures to safely deflate it.

The device should only be re-inflated following an assessment that the wind speed will not exceed the maximum rating. Re-inflation should only be conducted by a suitably trained person. If the person has not been trained on safe re-inflation procedures, the device should remain deflated.

Providing safe access for patrons

Safe access and egress points must be provided to ensure that patrons are not exposed to risks to their health or safety. This includes making sure the various components of the inflatable device (such as window mesh or screening) do not cause a hazard as a result of entrapment of patrons' clothing or parts of their body (eg fingers, hands, feet, head).

Procedures should be established for the retrieval of patrons in the event of a loss of power. Persons operating the inflatable device should be trained on the procedures.

Impact absorbing material should be installed around any open sides of the inflatable device. The material should be appropriate for the surface the inflatable device is located on, and extend at least 1.2 metres from the open sides.

Schematic diagram shows a well planned inflatable device. Diagram clearly shows all the parts of a typical inflatable devices like the blower, walled sides and any openings to the interior of the device. Absorbing material placement and placement of safety barriers and gates is also shown.

Image: Schematic diagram showing a well planned inflatable device. Impact absorbing material should extend at least 1.2m from any open side.

Preventing unauthorised access to non-patron areas

Systems should be implemented to prevent unauthorised access to non-patron areas (such as where the blowers are located) of the inflatable device.

Mechanical and electrical components should be isolated (for example, by using adequate guarding) to ensure that patrons cannot interfere with or be injured by them.

Electrical blowers which inflate the device should be located in a position to ensure that they cannot be accessed by patrons or members of the public. The blower fans must be appropriately guarded and fenced off to prevent unauthorised access, and weather protected where required.

Electrical connections should be protected from mechanical damage and inclement weather. A residual current device (RCD) or similar electrical safety device must be used. Maintenance on electrical equipment (eg blowers, temporary electrical leads, RCD units) should be conducted by qualified electrical persons.

Monitoring and supervision

To ensure that inflatable devices are safe and without risks to health, appropriate supervision and monitoring should be undertaken while the device is in operation, including when the device is being inflated or deflated.

Monitoring and supervision should be undertaken by persons who have been trained in the safe operation of the device. The immediate environment surrounding the inflatable device should also be monitored, including non-patron areas.

Measures should be put in place to ensure patrons using the device do not expose other patrons to injury. This includes providing supervision to ensure vulnerable patrons such as younger or smaller children are not exposed to injury from other patrons using the inflatable and ensuring that the maximum number of patrons is not exceeded.

Inspection and documentation

Inflatable devices must be inspected to the extent necessary to ensure that any risk associated with their use is monitored and controlled. (OHS Regulations r104(e) and r105(a)) This includes inspecting for wear and tear in the fabric and properties of the inflatable device. Duty holders should carry out post-assembly, daily (before use) and annual inspections of inflatable devices.

A log book of all inspections and maintenance should be kept.

Design registration

Certain amusement structures require registration of design under regulation 125 and Schedule 2 of the OHS Regulations, This includes inflatable amusement devices that have been determined to be:

  • an amusement structure determined by AS 3533.1 to be class 2 or higher; or
  • any inflatable device that has a platform height of 3 metres or more and relies on a supply of continuously blown air to maintain its shape

The duty to register a plant design applies only if work preparing the design started on or after 1 July 1995.

A failure to register a plant design in accordance with the OHS Regulations is an offence.

Design registration forms are available on the WorkSafe website or by contacting WorkSafe Advisory on 1800 136 089 or at [email protected].