Inflatable Amusements and Bad Weather — Should the Show Really Go On?

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As medical science has advanced, many people are staying active and are not slowing down their social lives. Many adults still retain that thrill-seeking impulse from their teen years and now seek new ways to find their next adrenaline-fueled adventure as an adult. As we age we don’t necessarily have to slow down, however, we should learn not to take foolish risks either. Let us consider why the popular decision is not always the right one when it comes to safety.

Recently, a friend told me about a party that he had attended.  During one of the past unseasonably warm spring days, their neighbor had decided to throw the first summer block party of the season. He had apparently wanted to go all out for this kickoff party and decided to rent an inflatable Gladiator Joust attraction.  The Gladiator Joust is perhaps best described as an inflatable version of the Joust event as featured on the 1990s television show American Gladiators. In this portable inflatable version participants each climb on top of one of two opposing pedestals. They then swing and poke jousting poles at the other person with the goal of being the last person standing.  To include additional players, a suspended wrecking ball and pads or pedestals accommodating up to four players simultaneously were present.

Inflatable attractions like Gladiator Joust are designed for teenagers and adults and have been described as providing “indescribable fun”. But sometimes when one or multiple risk factors are present, the danger outweighs the thrill factor. Inflatable equipment can be:

  • Improperly installed
  • A rollover risk in certain conditions
  • Insufficiently secured to the ground when wind conditions exceed safe limits.
  • Lifted into the air by particularly strong wind gusts even when secured.
  • Improperly used by guests; especially when alcohol is involved.
  • The cause of damage or destruction of property and landscaping.

Now I didn’t get to discuss all of the details and particulars regarding the party with my friend. But, he did mention that the night was almost ruined by severe storms. The combination of bad weather with the presence of inflatable attractions piqued my interest and I started to consider a few potential situations that could have occurred at the party.

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Beware of Changing Conditions Contributing to Risk

First, consider that weather conditions had been unstable all day; early in the party, the conditions began to deteriorate further. Thunderstorms were visibly and audibly approaching, but the inflatable rental company staff continued to operate the Gladiator Joust. Now, any time there is an electrical storm you should immediately seek shelter. Even professional sports leagues, like the NFL, stop play and advise fans to take cover when an electrical storm is approaching. However, violent thunderstorms, like the one approaching do not just pose an electrical risk; they are also known to bring strong winds. In fact, forecasters warned of the potential of 60 MPH winds and golf ball sized hail in storms on May 22nd.

At that point, the guests and staff were not only at risk of electrocution by lightning, with those participants on the elevated pedestals at particular risk, but also at risk of serious injury or death if a wind gust flipped or carried the attraction into the air. The staff of the inflatable attraction company should have already been in the process of deflating and securing the attractions until the storm passed.  The host and hostess of the party should have already been advised to instruct their guests that the conditions were unsafe. It’s not hard to imagine that many of the guests and even host and hostess would be disappointed, but in situations where multiple risk factors are present inflatable rides are much too dangerous to use, operate or even be near.

Multiple Risk Factors Can Appear in Different Circumstances

Let’s consider another situation now. Inflatables typically required a large flat area where the attraction can be anchored into the ground. Further, the attraction should not be set up next to a hill or other hazard that can increase the likelihood of an accident or further aggravate a bad situation. At a different neighborhood block party let’s assume that there was plenty of flat ground – the problem was that it was all concrete or asphalt. Further, the best places for the inflatable water slide were in close proximity to a downward slope. Rather than disappoint the party-goers the company attempts to secure the slide by typing it down to bricks they find nearby.

From our perspective, we can already see the potential bad outcome: a wind gust or other unexpected event tips or carries the inadequately anchored inflatable slide down the slope. Tumbling down the slope makes the injuries suffered much more severe. But, from the perspective of the rental company, they are looking to keep their client happy. In turn, the client who is also the party host does not want to disappoint his guests by canceling a major party event.  Through circumstances like these, people convince themselves that, “It can’t happen here.”  People subject themselves to riskier and more dangerous situations than they realize.

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Be Smart and Avoid Preventable Injuries and Deaths

Nearly every week during the summer I am contacted by at least one parent, teenager, or adult who has been injured by an inflatable amusement. Sometimes the injury was caused by faulty manufacturing, a design defect, improper installation, an inattentive operator, or inattentive supervision. However, in many circumstances, numerous risk factors and mistakes contribute to causing the accident. If we could stop and consider our actions for a moment longer, then perhaps we could reduce the 11,000 injuries the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) attributed to bounce house or moonwalk injuries alone. And there are undoubtedly many more injuries each year that go unreported or are not captured by this statistic.

If you have suffered an injury on an inflatable amusement, The Reiff Law Firm may be able to hold the negligent parties accountable for your injuries.  Doing so can not only help pay your medical bills but also send a message so that more people are not injured by risky behavior. Call us today at (215) 246-9000 or contact us online for your free case evaluation.

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