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.
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.
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.
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.