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Thirteen UK-based organisations concurred that trampoline parks need to be safer. So against a backdrop of bad press, they have launched the first set of guidelines for the sector, under the auspices of the International Association of Trampoline Parks (IATP). Indoor Play takes a look
In two years, the number of trampoline parks within the UK has grown to around 150. Although the figure is somewhat skewed as it comes from a very low base, trampoline park openings have actually increased by 3,000% since 2014.
While hundreds of thousands of visitors have had an enjoyable experience, there have been a number of accidents, including incidences of people damaging vertebrae and breaking bones – see box adapted from article on BBC News site. The unregulated industry had seen a great deal more negative press recently; in particular a specific focus has been placed on foam pits, where several accidents had taken place since the beginning of the year.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) agrees that some communities have experienced a rise in visits to Accident & Emergency departments as a result of trampoline parks, some of which have been serious. As has been well documented, of course, the risk of accidents while jumping and landing on trampolines is considerable; given that jumpers may land awkwardly or accidentally hit someone while moving around.
Operators insist the number of injuries is low compared to the total number of users they are attracting. Still, a key issue for the sector had been the lack of definitive guidelines regarding the safe operation of trampoline parks, and there is no regulating body.
This is no longer the case. In March, IATP published a British Standards Institution Publicly Available Standard (PAS), for the first time. The new standard aims to reduce injuries at trampoline parks and drive tougher safety measures forward.
The standard’s specifications offer guidance for the construction of a fixed indoor trampoline park, as well as covering day-to-day park operating, training and maintenance requirements.
Members of the IATP have been working with the BSI steering group involving RoSPA, British Gymnastics, environmental health officers (EHOs), the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), constructors and operators. The result is a voluntary standard developed by and for the trampoline park industry to help minimise the risks to park users and ensure they have a safe and enjoyable experience. The standard has been created to support trampoline park operators, designers, manufacturers and installers, as well as inspection and enforcement bodies such as the HSE and EHOs.
Peter Brown, managing director of Freedome, which was featured in the last issue of Indoor Play, has spent the last 20 years working within the adventure activity industry. He was a founding member of the UK subcommittee of the IATP, the first chair of the group and the technical author of the British standard.
He comments: “Demand for trampoline parks has grown exponentially in a very short space of time. However, the safety standards had not caught up with this demand. I am very pleased that we have managed to get the BSI PAS 5000 out so quickly, creating something that will form the backbone of standards across the UK.”
Every aspect of the construction is covered, including fixings and padding. Among the central requirements set down in the guidelines, operators will be required to obtain from the manufacturer a full operations manual showing how all the equipment should be operated and maintained before the park is handed over to the operator.
Clear instructions have to be provided as to the number of people allowed per trampoline bed, as well as the overall number within the facility as a whole. Operators should be very clear as to their responsibilities for pre-opening safety checks – and exactly what has to be checked each day.
Staff training is seen as crucial. This had been a subject of criticism in relation to many of the accidents that have taken place over the past two years. In one instance in Scotland, Claire McKenna told BBC Scotland that her husband’s injuries were made worse at the trampoline centre due to the actions of a member of staff.
Standard first aid recommendations are that anyone with a suspected serious neck injury should not be moved until qualified medical personnel are present. She claimed that the member of staff involved at the trampoline centre “was just interested in filling in an accident form and kept saying for me to drive him to the hospital”. Christopher McKenna had a broken neck and had to undergo an operation. Doctors said that he could have been paralySed as a result of the way he had been treated.
Such situations should become a thing of the past as the guidelines specifically define unsafe behaviour, state that there must, at the very least, be fully qualified first aiders on duty at all times, and that court monitors must undergo detailed training.
It is also stipulated that every park user should be fully aware of the rules that must be followed before commencing their session on the trampolines. Safety briefings must include identification of hazards within the jumping area, manoeuvres permitted or not permitted on the equipment, how to kill the bounce when necessary, take-off and landing methods, the inherent risks and any site-specific rules.
Any special activities such as basketball hoops or air bags should be kept within specific areas and should not cause overcrowding elsewhere within the trampoline park.
As of August, 2017, parks will need to comply with the BSI standards to join the IATP. Therefore, the organisation is advising people to look for the IATP sticker on the door of any trampoline park that they are considering entering. The IATP is also asking customers to be vigilant at trampoline parks, highlighting the following things that users should look out for when choosing a trampoline park to visit:
- A risk acknowledgement and disclaimer
- Safety briefings from staff
- 20:1 jumpers to per court-monitor ratio
- Staffing of all activities
- Is the area where you get on and off the trampolines soft under foot?
- Are staff engaged in the activity of looking out for safety concerns?
- Is the park clean and well maintained?
- Is the park well lit?
- Are there any jumps over 6ft high into foam pits or air bags?
It may be aimed at the punters, but this checklist serves, of course, as a decent guide to operators too.
RoSPA’s leisure safety manager Dave Walker says: “It’s heartening to see the sector organising and sharing good practice. This should provide a clear framework for parks and regulators to work towards.”
Within the trampoline industry, the reaction has been supportive, says IATP chairman Brown: “Responses to the guidelines have been very positive. People understand that they are necessary. There was was a lot of interest from the press too; I spent weeks doing little else but talk to the press, from the BBC’s The One Show to almost every radio station in the country. We had a lot of comment from within the industry before we drew up the final version.
“These guidelines are designed to lift standards across the board but we cannot design out every possibility of an accident. People may land awkwardly for example, hurt a knee or a foot. You cannot take out all the inherent risks. The quality of trampoline parks in the UK is very good, I think we have learned from the American experience so as to make them as safe as possible.”
Janet Hooper, IndoorPlay account manager at specialist insurance broker Morton Michel, was also happy to hear of the developments: “Morton Michel has been approached [to provide insurance cover to trampoline parks] on numerous occasions over the last 12 to 18 months but we have declined to offer quotations due to our concerns with both safety and potential injury.
“As a result of our experience of trampolines within indoor-play centres over the last 20 years, we understand and accept that incidents may occur on this type of equipment but we are also aware of the possible severity of injuries that can result. With this knowledge, we attempt to reduce the risk by requiring that trampolines be used so that both our clients and their customers are protected as far as possible.
“We welcome this initiative to keep this a ‘fun’ activity but to make it safer to customers and viable for operators.”
As well as the standards being voluntary, companies will not have to be members of the IATP to conform, nor will the regulations have a legal standing. “But if companies don’t comply, and there are accidents, they will be in a difficult place,” Brown says. “If someone is building a park, and does not meet the regulations, then the environmental people will be asking questions. There will have to be a very good reason why they have not complied. It will be insurance driven – companies will need to meet the regulations to get insurance.”
It is not just dedicated trampoline parks that will be affected by these guidelines. Any business operating a number of trampolines in a fixed area on a permanent basis may be required to comply with the guidelines. There will be a much greater stress as a result on the use of trained management to operate and supervise trampoline activity. Allowing children of mixed ages to jump together poses a risk that may not necessarily occur to untrained staff. Under-5s jump differently to children aged five and over who have the ability to really bounce on the pads. So they have to be looked at differently.
The further development of an active UK branch of the IATP will undoubtedly help focus attention on the evolution of the sector and safety considerations. Brown says: “We have around 250 members in the UK, 50 of which are recent members as a result of the publicity around the guidelines. We spent £70,000 developing the guidelines and this is just one reason why companies should join the association.
“We are now setting up more member benefits including conferences in the UK where people can talk together and see what is happening in the industry. We are also looking at insurance schemes and other offers to provide benefits for our members.
“The future for trampoline parks in the UK is very bright. There has been a very fast growth in the past two years and we will begin to see a consolidation in the UK market. There are lots of sole traders and individual businesses and some of those will consolidate. We will also see more family entertainment and indoor-play centres adding trampolines to their businesses and they will also have to comply with these regulations [to be a member of the IATP].”
• For further information about the IATP visit www.indoortrampolineparks.org
• To download the new standards, go to shop.bsigroup.com and type PAS 500:2017 into the search bar
BBC investigates trampoline risk
The new guidelines [ARE] were [TYPO: PARTICULARLY] particlualrly timely as media coverage of accident levels at parks across the land [HAD BEEN] was ramping up.
BBC 5 live's Daily programme claimed that ambulances in 13 counties were called to trampoline parks in the UK more than 300 times in a year.
Statistics from a Freedom of Information request show callouts made by 30 parks in 12 months to April 2016.
One park, Flip Out Stoke, called out an ambulance more than once a week on average. In fact, the BBC claimed that paramedics attended Flip Out Stoke 17 times in 109 days – once every six days – following its opening in December 2015.
Oxygen Freejumping in Southampton, which had 200,000 jumpers in the last year, had the next highest callout rate: 13 call outs in 114 days – one every nine days.
Air Hop in Guildford, which has about 300,000 jumpers annually, had 39 call outs – an average of one every nine days (assuming it was open for 365 days).
And one park in Chester, a franchise of the same company behind Flip Out Stoke, is investigating after three people broke vertebrae in their backs on the same day.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom though – Jump Lanes in Londonderry, had no callouts across the 12 months.
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