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Bounce Houses and Inflatables

Inflatable bouncers, such as bounce houses and moonwalks, are popular sources of entertainment at children’s parties and parish festivals. Concerns about child safety, however, have prompted pediatricians to caution against their use.

According to emergency room data, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported more than 18,000 injuries in 2012 as a result of moon bounces, bounce houses and inflatable amusements. That’s a threefold increase from six years earlier, according to the commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. More than 90 percent of inflatable amusement injuries were linked to moon bounces, the report found. Of those injuries, two-thirds involved people’s arms and legs. Another 15 percent of injuries affected the head or face. Nearly nine out of 10 people injured were 14 years old or younger. (Source)

The presence of multiple children on a bouncer at the same time is a known injury risk factor for bouncers, similar to trampolines. The Journal of Children’s Orthopaedics released a study in 2018 concluding that the main risk factors for injury were shared use by an excessive number of children of different ages and weights, and the lack of effective adult supervision.

When renting an inflatable, the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety recommends asking the following questions:

  • Does the rental company set the unit up with trained employees? Avoid companies that allow you to pick the device up and set it up yourself.
  • Does the rental company provide an operator (required to have an operator for devices that is designed to enable patrons to stand, sit or climb to a height of 12 feet or higher)?
  • If an operator is not provided, did the rental company provide you with clear instructions to ensure safe operation of the device? Avoid rental companies that do not provide an operator or fails to properly instruct you with the manufacturer’s recommendations including capacity limitations, wind restrictions, location placement and anchoring requirements.
  • In addition, ALWAYS request a Certificate of Insurance from the vendor. The certificate should name your parish/school, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and Cardinal Sean O’Malley, a Corporate Sole as additional insured for the scheduled event. The certificate must show evidence of general liability insurance of at least $1,000,000 (preferably $2,000,000) per occurrence and workers’ compensation insurance of $500,000 per occurrence for bodily injury.

Setting up an Inflatable Bouncer

First, determine ahead of time where you will place the inflatable. You will need a relatively flat area at least 5 feet bigger all around than the size of the inflatable. Do not set up an inflatable on a slope. It is best to make sure you have enough room by measuring the area ahead of time.

Check for bushes or tree branches in the vicinity and make sure there are no power lines or overhanging branches overhead. Clear the area of rocks, twigs, pinecones or other obstructions and check for fire ant hills, animal droppings or anything else that might be in the way.

When renting an inflatable, you will be expected to provide an electrical outlet. Be sure to test outdoor outlets to ensure they are operational. Use an outdoor extension cord no longer than 75 feet. Do not use multiple cords. Make sure the extension cord is not a tripping hazard. Also, make sure the cord cannot be inadvertently pulled from the outlet which would cause the unit to deflate. For events that aren’t near an electrical source, you may need a portable generator. Make sure you know how to operate it safely.

Always have the operator of the device set up the equipment. They are trained to secure the equipment and properly connect to the power source. The operator must cover all operating and safety procedures verbally, and should leave printed instructions. It is your responsibility to ask questions if there is something you do not understand.

While the event is in progress, periodically check on the equipment and operators. Is the operator allowing the capacity to be exceeded?

Guidelines for Operating Inflatable Bouncers

  • Be sure an adult supervisor is attending the unit at ALL TIMES, and ensure that the supervisor of the unit is aware of all of the rules and precautions.
  • If possible, have someone on site trained in CPR and first aid.
  • Keep children age three (3) and under out of the unit. Make sure use of the unit is age appropriate.
  • Make sure all children are grouped according to SIZE.
  • DO NOT exceed the maximum capacity at any time.
  • Remove a child if you see he/she is getting tired. A sitting child is more at risk of getting jumped on by another child.
  • If a bounce house collapses, be sure to remove all children immediately.
  • Perform safety checks of the equipment frequently. Operators will show you how.
  • Turn the unit off during inclement weather or high winds.
  • Seek medical attention for ALL injuries IF they occur.
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