You may have seen a report in November indicating that bounce-house accidents are on the rise. The news channels ran with the story – manipulating the already misleading information to make good headlines. And they did a good job! The news spread like wildfire on TV, radio and the internet.
Sadly, the information given from the study was incomplete. While it may be true that inflatable injuries have risen 15-fold from 1995-2010, they don’t mention that the inflatable industry has BOOMED in these years. No concrete statistics are available for the industry as a whole, but several studies estimate the young industry will grow 1000% in the next 10 years! Naturally, more use means more injuries. More education and supervision can help – but it’s simple mathematics as long as all other variables remain constant.
The doctor responsible for the study said he “…believe(s) if these numbers were statistics for an infectious disease, it would be considered a public health emergency.” This comment refers to the 11,310 emergency-room visits caused by inflatable-related injuries in 2010. Using this logic, what should we do about playgrounds? Playground-related emergency room visits have surpassed the 200,000/year mark recently. That’s more than one child every three minutes hospitalized due to playground injuries. To me, that is much more disturbing than the math Dr Smith presented in the article released by the Associated Press – one child every 45 minutes hospitalized for bounce house related injuries.
A recent discussion with an Ohio Dept. of Agriculture Amusement Ride Safety Division Inspector revealed that registered inflatables within the state increased by approximately 25% from 2011 to 2012. With growth like that, it’s not unexpected for inflatable injuries to increase as well. In Ohio, however, emergency room accidents actually declined from 2011 to 2012 – a testament to the work the Amusement Ride Safety Division of Ohio does.
Most states do not regulate inflatable amusement devices (a.k.a. bounce houses). Of the regulatory states, some are more strict than others. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio have some of the toughest regulations. In Ohio, for example, each inflatable must be inspected annually and should bear a brass plate with a unique number and sticker while in use. These inspections cost between $260 & $310 per inflatable. Before each use, inflatable owners in Ohio must fax in an itinerary with details of the details of any upcoming events. This allows state inspectors the ability to inspect the rides on-site, unannounced. The state also requires that inflatable owners have at least $1,000,000 in liability insurance on file with the Amusement Safety Division at all times. In other states, inflatable owners are required to take safety courses and continuing education classes in order to inspect their own inflatables at a cost of about $50 per inflatable.
While the regulations in some states are very hard to comply with and can be very costly to inflatable owners, statistics show that regulated states have a much better safety record on these types of rides than the rest of the country.
Of course, rules and ‘taxes’ don’t force inflatable operators follow the rules or even have their rental fleet inspected. Some companies try to sneak under the radar, cut corners, and gamble with the safety of their customers, the industry’s reputation, and their own financial stability. Fines for violations are very steep in states like Ohio, and a serious accident on a non-registered (or non-insured) inflatable will surely spell disaster for those responsible.
In the end, the safety of your children while they use inflatables is your responsibility. Inflatables are not baby-sitters. Do your research, ask questions, choose a reputable company, follow the rules posted on the rides – and have fun! We all participate in very risky activities that aren’t as fun as an inflatable party. We drive, swim, ride bikes….but we are aware of the dangers and act accordingly. That’s all that needs to be done when deciding on an inflatable rental for your next event.
Ohio Mobile Gaming is a fully licensed, insured, and safety conscious inflatable company serving NE Ohio for the last 5 years. If you have any questions about our safety rules, policies, or operating procedures – please call us at 330.745.4545.