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Amusement Park Rides and Bounce Houses: Safety Tips for Parents

bounce-house-injuryWith summer now in high gear, it’s the season for local carnivals and country fairs. To help parents ensure the safety of their children, the Department of Labor & Industries has published an amusement ride checklist.

While bounce houses and amusement rides are fun family-oriented activities, inadequate maintenance and supervision or improper use can lead to serious injury. In fact, there have been several high-profile stories on bounce-house dangers and injuries in recent months.  One of the most prominent reports focused specifically on Seattle injuries.

“The public expects L&I, amusement-ride operators, insurance companies and private-industry safety inspectors to ensure amusement rides are safe,” said Rod Mutch, chief inspector for L&I’s Electrical Program, which oversees rides. “One thing parents can do is take a look at our checklist so they know what to look for to make sure a ride or bounce house has been inspected and operators are taking appropriate safety precautions.”

The full checklist is available at www.Lni.wa.gov/amusementrides. Highlights are included below:

For all rides

  • Check for a current state decal on the ride, meaning it’s been inspected and approved.
  • Observe how the ride is operated:
    • Is the operator taking care to ensure that passengers are appropriately protected?
    • Is the operator paying close attention when the ride is in motion?
    • Is the operator observing restrictions about rider size?

For inflatable rides

  • Is the operator strictly limiting the number of people on the ride at one time?
  • Does the inflatable ride appear to be overloaded or unstable?
  • Does the ride appear to be securely anchored?
  • Could the blower inflating the ride accidentally be unplugged, collapsing and possibly injuring the riders?

Please be aware — being inspected DOES NOT guarantee that the ride is being operated safely, or in the case of inflatable rides, that the ride has been installed correctly on the site.

The L&I website also includes a list of safety-certified amusement ride operators and bounce house providers in Washington state, as well as frequently asked questions about ride safety.

The dangers of children in bounce houses has come into the national spotlight in recent months. The Consumer Products Safety Commission recently investigated two separate bounce house incidents in Colorado and New York where children were injured.

“I have grandkids who look forward to riding carnival rides and playing in bounce houses,” Mutch said. “I want to know, as I’m sure all parents do, that these amusements are installed correctly and meet safety standards.”

Over the past five years, Washington State alone has documented five separate incidents involving bounce houses. Injuries primarily included sprains and broken bones. Last year alone, L&I shut down the operations of 17 companies due to improper installation or operation of bounce houses.

Among the standard checklist items are ensuring that bounce house are securely and properly anchored with steel stakes or sandbags (injuries have occurred from bounce houses blowing away with children inside); that the ride has an L&I inspection sticker; and that a ride operator is present and paying attention. If parents are concerned about safety, they are urged to call L&I immediately at 360-902-5570.

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