A child has died after being thrown from a bouncy castle that eyewitnesses say exploded on a Norfolk beach. Politicians have since called for a temporary ban on the giant inflatables as an investigation is launched into the three year old’s death. Robert Halfon, the Conservative MP for Harlow, Essex stated, “After two horrific tragedies, the Government need to look at updates of regulations and inspection regime and consider a temporary ban on large inflatables in public areas until we can be sure that they are safe. “ There is speculation the inflatable exploded as a result of the heat.
This follows on from the tragedy in 2016 when two fairground workers who were convicted of manslaughter by gross negligence after a bouncy castle blew away with a young girl inside have been jailed. In this case the two accused, Thurston and Grant were sentenced to three years in prison for failing to adequately anchor the bouncy castle to the ground. They also failed to monitor weather conditions to ensure it was safe to use. In addition they were sentenced to a further 12 months’ imprisonment for a health and safety offence, which is to run concurrently. As a result of this case, the Health and Safety Executive has been called upon to take the steps necessary to make it compulsory for fairground operators to have proper wind speed measuring equipment.
When dealing with the general public, especially children, adequate measures must be in place to ensure the health and safety of bouncy castle users. The Royal Society of prevention of accidents has a list of factors to ensure the safe running of a bouncy castle. The issues include, secure anchorage, impact absorbing mats, supervision, being wary of maximum load recommendations.
The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 is in place to work against risks to health or safety arising out of or in connection with the activities of persons at work. Fairground equipment that is designed to be used by members of the public for entertainment purposes, either as a slide or for bouncing upon. All bouncy castle equipment used as a “slide or for bouncing upon” by members of the public needs to be regularly tested by a “competent” person. The inspection needs to be carried out before the bouncy castle is first used. Thereafter the check is annually. The type of checks an inspector will carry out include: wear or rips in the fabric, internal air pressure, number and condition of anchors, firmness of any walls and towers, condition of the blower and whether it has sufficient mesh guards. Operating instructions which come with all bouncy castles recommend the maximum wind speed to use a bouncy castle is 24mph.
On the other hand, Matt Biggs, who runs the Nottingham-based bouncy castle hire firm Big Bounce, said the calls from the local MP Halfon were adding to public confusion. He advised it was tragic what had recently happened but the bouncy castle was in fact a sealed air trampoline. He advised a bouncy castle uses continuous airflow and the air escapes out of the seams, therefore it could not explode. He has argued calling a temporary ban would affect many people’s livelihoods and would be nothing more than a knee jerk reaction to this tragedy.
Health and Safety regulations exist for a reason. When dealing with the general public and children in particular, health and safety regulations must be met to a stringent standard no matter whether it is a bouncy castle or sealed air trampoline, the premise remains. This is the duty of the service provider. If that duty is breached, death is the worst likely outcome. From the precedent it is likely service providers will be subject to a custodial sentence for failure to adhere to the health and safety regulations.
Blog by Neha Sood, Accident Lawyer