Bouncy castles and inflatable slides have become a stable of childhood entertainment. However, injuries or even fatalities can happen if inflatable amusement devices are incorrectly set up, anchored, operated, or supervised and not regularly tested and inspected. ASTM F2374-22: Standard Practice For Design, Manufacture, Operation, And Maintenance Of Inflatable Amusement Devices provides criteria to ensure safe use of commercial inflatable amusement devices.
Inflatable Amusement Devices Safety Concerns
Inflatable amusement devices (inflatables) are flexible air-filled structures designed for users to bounce, slide, or climb on. The fabric framework is inflated using blowers, relying on air pressure to maintain its shape. Inflatables come in a variety of designs (movie characters, animals, castles, etc.,) with assorted uses, ranging from the traditional bouncy house to slides and mazes, bungee runs, obstacle courses, and more; they are being used to provide enclosed spaces for light shows and other displays. This beloved form of entertainment, however, has numerous hazard concerns:
- Wind (e.g., by distorting or blowing the whole inflatable over)
- Failure of seams or splitting of the fabric under pressure
- Air loss due to blower disconnection, failure, or interruption of the power supply
- Zip failure
- Accidental injury to users caused by themselves or others (e.g., through overcrowding); spilling out of, or falling from, the inflatable; mounting and dismounting (i.e., entry or exit); disregard of large users for smaller users
- Tripping (e.g., over ground anchors
- Access to unguarded or inadequately protected parts of equipment (e.g., blower units)
- Electrical hazards (e.g., shocks and burns)
- Entrapment by head or feet first passage
- Inadequate means of escape in the case of a fire or other emergency
- Dangerous siting of equipment
Luckily, standards like ASTM F2374-22 exist to minimize these risks that could cause injury to the user.
What is ASTM F2374?
ASTM F2374-22 establishes criteria for the design, manufacture, installation, operation, maintenance, inspection, training, auditing, and major modification of commercial use inflatable amusement devices. These devices are made of flexible fabric, inflated by one or more blowers, and rely upon air pressure to maintain their shape. They are designed for patron activities that include, but are not limited to, bouncing, climbing, sliding, obstacle course running, and interactive play. The practice in ASTM F2374-22 includes land-based inflatable amusement devices that are designed for dry use, wet use, or a combination of wet/dry use. Inflatable amusement devices covered by this standard have inflation systems that:
- Require air to be constantly supplied in order to maintain structure, form, shape, or integrity (continuous air inflatable amusement device)
- Maintain inflation without the need for constant air supply (captured air inflatable amusement device)
- Incorporate both methods of inflation into a single device
Amusement devices covered by ASTM F2374-22 are used primarily in amusement, entertainment or recreational applications. Such applications include, but are not limited to, amusement parks, theme parks, water parks, family entertainment centers, rental companies, fitness centers, gyms, gymnastics facilities, jump centers, sports facilities, skate parks, camps, schools, shopping centers, temporary special events, carnivals, fairs, festivals, and municipal parks.
Invention of the Bouncy Castle
Bouncy castles were first invented in the United States in the 1950s by John Scurlock, a mechanical engineer. While experimenting with inflatable covers for tennis courts, Scurlock noticed that his employees enjoyed bouncing on the covers during their lunch break. This gave him the idea to create a more durable, inflatable structure for entertainment purposes. In 1959, Scurlock designed and built the first bouncy castle: “Space Pillow.” This structure, made from heavy-duty vinyl material, consisted of walls and a floor that were inflated with air. It was a huge success; thus Scurlock then rented out the bouncy castle for parties and events.
Since their invention, bouncy castles have grown to encompass all shapes and sizes from basic designs to elaborate castles and obstacles courses used at corporate events, team building-exercises, fitness classes, weddings, and more. Further, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest inflatable castle is 1,262 m² (13,584 ft² 7 in²) and was achieved in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on 17 January 2023. The castle is called JumpX and is open in Dubai Parks and Resorts, fitting a capacity of 300 people at a single time.
ASTM F2374-22: Standard Practice For Design, Manufacture, Operation, And Maintenance Of Inflatable Amusement Devices is available on the ANSI Webstore.