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Queensland: safety warning over land-borne inflatable devices becoming airborne

Tuesday, 14 May, 2019 - 15:15
Policy & legislation

Workplace Health and Safety Queensland recently issued a safety alert highlighting the risk of land-borne inflatable devices (such as a jumping castle or slide) becoming airborne if they are not adequately anchored.

The alert was issued following a number of incidents – locally and worldwide – where a land-borne inflatable device became airborne, causing fatal or serious injuries to children.

In 2017, for example, a sudden strong gust of wind caused a land-borne inflatable that was set up on an outdoor netball court to become airborne. A nine-year-old boy who was on the device at the time was seriously injured.

In 2016, a similar incident occurred on a land-borne inflatable that was set up on a football field in windy conditions. A three-year-old girl on the device was seriously injured.

The alert said there were a number of contributing factors to both Queensland incidents:

  • The devices were not secured in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions

  • Environmental conditions were not monitored

  • Workers were not adequately trained, instructed and supervised.

In the first incident only two of the nine anchor points were secured in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, while the wind gust involved was believed to be close to, but did not exceed the manufacturer’s recommended maximum operational wind speed.

In the second incident the device was set up on hard-stand and inadequately secured. A small dust devil caused the device to flip over. An attempt had been made to secure eight of the 26 anchor points provided by the manufacturer however each was inadequately secured.

The manufacturer’s instructions indicated that where ground anchor pegs are not used, such as on hard-stand, the device shall be secured by an equally effective method such as weights. In this instance, weights totalling around 4290 kilograms should have been used.

Additionally, the person supervising the device did not immediately remove riders from the device when the dust devil was first observed.

The alert subsequently recommended a number of required actions across four areas:

Anchorage: All anchor points must be secured in accordance with the manufacturers or a competent person’s (e.g. an engineer with knowledge of inflatable devices and anchorage systems) instructions.

If ground anchor stakes cannot be used to secure the device (such as on hard surfaces, paved areas or asphalt), a competent person should be engaged to design an anchorage system that can withstand the same forces as if it was secured with ground anchor stakes.

  • Where a device is regularly erected on a hard surface such as outside hardware stores, consider having a competent person supervise the installation of permanent ground anchors.

  • When erected indoors (no wind load) the device should be secured to maintain stability.

Wind speed: Land-borne inflatable devices must not be operated in wind speeds above what they are rated for. There should be a means of monitoring the wind speed (e.g. use an anemometer) to ensure the device’s maximum rated wind speed is not exceeded.

Relying on regional weather updates may not be sufficient as the wind speed on-site could differ to the regional weather update. In addition, the weather update may not provide sufficient detection and warning of the wind speed or weather conditions.

Emergency procedures: Emergency procedures need to be documented in the operation manual and periodically tested to ensure that those supervising the device know how:

  • To respond to unexpected wind events

  • And when to remove riders from the device

  • To remove any riders trapped in the device

  • To deflate and secure the device.

Instruction, training and supervision: People supervising the device must be competent to perform the tasks described above. Periodic refresher instruction and training should be performed to maintain operator competence.