Inflatables – the benign looking giant pillows made of air and vinyl may be the most dangerous device on the amusement scene, and the least regulated. Devices in this category come in hundreds of different configurations, from the common bounce house to slides, giant slides, water slides, obstacle courses, bungee runs, and many others. Although standards, guidelines, and inflatable industry advisory organizations exist, essentially no regulation is exercised over manufacturers, owners, or operators of inflatables.
Looks Can Be Deceiving: Risk of Injuries on Inflatable Devices
Injuries on inflatable devices are caused by a wide range of factors including, but not limited to, the following:
- Inappropriate supervision
- Bad design
- Poor maintenance
- Ejections from the device
- Falling from several feet while entering or using the inflatable
- Sudden stopping or bouncing
- Collisions with other users
- Striking surrounding objects or the inflatable itself
Inflatable injuries range from abrasions to broken bones, quadriplegia, brain injuries, and death. Other serious injuries include contusions, neck injuries, and back injuries.
These devices are NOT SOFT, CUSHY, AND BENIGN! Head first impacts with the walls or floor of an inflatable device can cause broken necks. Children on very steep slides, typically of 60 degrees or more slope, often tumble down the slide causing broken bones or worse, when the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) mandates that playground slides can be no steeper than 30 degrees.
Inflatable Device Rental Industry
Although a somewhat new branch of the amusement industry tree, inflatable devices are deceptive in that most people assume that they are safer than they actually are. More and more business operations have emerged; therefore, more people have rented or even purchased these devices.
There may not be statistics on the amount of manufacturers, rental companies, or inflatable devices now in the U.S., but the vast majority of inflatable devices are imported from China and other low cost producing nations. These devices are manufactured without regard to U.S. safety standards from ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), and the CPSC. Most owners and operators are unaware or unconcerned about such safety standards. The devices are routinely left on the lawns of renters without any instruction on safe use, even if the device can be used safely. People either rent or purchase inflatables mostly on the Internet. There are an estimated 250,000 inflatable devices in the U.S.
The approximate profit of the inflatable device rental industry exceeds $50 million and the number of persons using these devices is unknown, but a close estimate would fall into the tens of millions. With these points in mind, how does such an unregulated and underestimated safety threat to consumers go unnoticed and get treated as unimportant?
Deflate Your Denial, Help Spread Awareness
A person may feel better not knowing the potential risks of injury, paralysis, and death from inflatable slides, bounce houses, and other devices, but what if their luck runs out? The amusement industry is in the business of making money, not protecting the wellbeing of consumers. The point of creating and enforcing strict and effective regulations of inflatable manufacturers, owners, or operators isn’t to eliminate all the fun – it’s to protect the lives of millions of innocent people simply wanting to be entertained and make memories with friends and family. Help spread the word about the dangers of inflatable devices so that the industry takes action to do what’s right.