Who’s to blame for dangerous jumping castles?
Parents should be better equipped to deal with the dangers of jumping castles.
When organising a child’s birthday party, outdoors-loving South Africans often hire jumping castles. The inflatable structures provide an afternoon of exhausting fun for exuberant children and help to keep them busy while the moms and dads catch up over cake. Recent incidents have shown that jumping castles may be dangerous, but would more legislation help to protect kids from injury and operators from being sued or fined?

I’ve watched kids at parties, and it’s very difficult to monitor them when there’s a bouncy castle. Some children are off and on several times in the space of a few minutes. Toddlers and older kids have different playing styles and parents are easily distracted. Play can easily become boisterous, and mild bumps occur frequently as sugar-fuelled kids literally bounce off the walls.

Legislating the bounce

In the UK, the birthplace of stringent health and safety guidelines, owners and operators of jumping castles are required to stick to guidelines and have professional indemnity insurance cover to provide financial protection in the event of a claim of negligence, according to bouncycastlesuk.com. Additional insurance would also cover the repair or replacement of the bouncy castle if you are the owner and it is damaged.

In SA, according to one seller of jumping castles at jumpingcastles.co.za there are no regulations regarding bouncy castles and the buyer/operator of a castle is just morally compelled to advise someone that hires one of the safety guidelines which must be attached to the castle. He advised that supervision is the most important aspect of jumping castle safety. [Editor's note: this seller was not involved in any incidents involving reported injury]

Locally, the operators of one resort where a child was electrocuted by a bouncy castle motor lead in 2012 were fined R200 000 and charged with culpable homicide as the plug had not been earthed, according to City Press.

In addition, a child was injured recently after the castle he was on was allegedly picked up by a strong gust of wind. He sustained head and chest injuries, reported News24.

It’s possible that both of these incidents could have been avoided had the plug been earthed and, in the second incident, the castle had been more securely tethered.

Supervision does help to avoid injuries caused by improper use of the castle, but perhaps parents need to put more thought into child safety before hiring a castle.

Parents and operators can both act to ensure that the jumping castle experience is as safe as possible.

Of course, it’s impossible to regulate all aspects of children having fun, and likewise, it’s impossible to completely avoid any risk or injury in any activity, but there are several tips for parents who want to ensure their kids are playing in the safest possible conditions:

Safety tips for bouncy castles

  • Place the bouncy castle in the centre of a lawn or other soft surface, away from surrounding buildings.
  • Make sure that no open flames or braai areas are close to the castle.
  • Be careful to ensure that any wires needed to power the castle are insulated and that no water comes close to any electrical equipment.
  • Do not place the castle under low roofs or trees.
  • Supervise children on the castle, ensuring that rough or dangerous play is stopped, and stick to the recommended numbers of children allowed to play at one time.
  • Ask kids to remove hard shoes or other objects before they play.
  • Let children of similar ages play together, so that bigger kids won’t bump smaller ones, and smaller ones won’t get hurt by being unable to move out of the way.
  • Secure the bouncy castle in order to ensure that a strong wind does not blow it away.
  • Read the instructions on the inflatable structure and make sure you stick to them.
(Tips: via Parent24.com)

Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.

Are jumping castles dangerous, or just good, old-fashioned fun?

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