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Which health and safety laws apply to children’s entertainment providers?

Children’s entertainers have to abide by standard health and safety rules, which are set out in various Acts of law. Some of the statutes that contain rules relevant to children's play areas and playgrounds include:

While the above doesn’t specifically (and solely) apply to play areas, this legislation may apply depending on the specific circumstances of a situation. For more information, see HSE’s guidance for the entertainment and leisure industry.

If you have any questions or concerns about specific health and safety laws and whether they apply to you, you should contact the HSE.

Additional playground health and safety standards

In addition to applicable health and safety laws, playgrounds are also subject to certain health and safety standards. While these playground standards aren’t legal requirements, adhering to them is considered good practice as it creates a safe environment for users and helps protect a playground provider in case of any accidents.

The key applicable playground standards are:

BS EN 1176

This standard regulates playground equipment and the fencing surrounding playgrounds. The aim of this standard is to provide a safe playground environment to all users, by outlining appropriate safety systems (eg regular testing) and requiring the removal of unsafe equipment. It also highlights that: 

  • emergency vehicles (eg ambulances) should have easy access to all parts of a playground

  • safety should be ensured by purchasing high-quality playground equipment

  • all playground equipment should be installed safely in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and the national building regulations

The full BS EN 1176 standard is available from the British Standards Institution (BSI).

BS EN 1177

This standard regulates other areas of playground health and safety (eg playground surfacing) and defines the critical fall height (CFH) of a playground’s surfaces. The aim of this standard is to reduce the impact of a child falling down within the playground and injuring themselves.

The full BS EN 1177 standard is available from the BSI.

Bouncy castles and play inflatables

Special rules apply to bouncy castles and other play inflatables (eg inflatable slides). This is because serious injuries can occur if inflatables collapse or are blown away in windy conditions.

In addition to the above rules and guidelines, operators of play inflatables should be particularly aware of the full, current HSE guidelines on their safe use. Note that these guidelines only apply to the supply, hire and use of inflatables for commercial purposes (ie they do not apply to private individuals who buy such inflatables for their own domestic use).

Guidelines for the use of bouncy castles or other play inflatables

HSE’s safety advice on bouncy castles and other play inflatables provides detailed guidance on the use of bouncy castles and other play inflatables. In short:

  • a bouncy castle or other inflatable must comply with the appropriate BSI standard (eg BS EN 14960)

  • a bouncy castle or other inflatable should have a minimum of 6 functional anchor points

  • a bouncy castle or other inflatable should be used as per its safety instructions

  • wind speed should always be measured regularly with an anemometer

  • no bouncy castle or other inflatable should be used if the wind is stronger than 24 mph (38 kph)

  • the internal pressure of a bouncy castle or other inflatable must be measured regularly, using a suitable measuring device (eg a manometer), and recorded

  • a blower (ie the air blower that inflates a bouncy castle or inflatable) should be checked every day (eg to ensure that the fan’s blades are clear of debris and that the non-return flap on the outlet is fully functional)

  • a bouncy castle or other inflatable should only be operated in accordance with its users’ manual

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations

In addition to all of the above, children’s entertainers have to abide by The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998. This basically means that equipment needs to be regularly tested by a competent person.

As a minimum, the equipment should be tested before first use and once a year thereafter. It should be checked for damage after every use. If any damage is identified, it should be fixed before next use. After a repair, the operator will need to make a judgment call on whether or not to fully retest the equipment.

For example, minor holes and tears may just be fixed by the operator. If, however, there is identified or suspected damage to anything electrical, like the blower, it may be safest to retest the item after repairs. Note that all electrical items will need a PAT test every year.

Supervision of a bouncy castle or other play inflatable

In addition to ensuring the safety of the bouncy castle or other inflatable itself, someone must take ownership of ensuring that it is used safely. At all times, there must be at least one suitably trained person supervising the use of a bouncy castle or other inflatable.

If the hirer (ie the party renting the bouncy castle or other inflatable) will be responsible for the inflatable’s safe use, the provider of the inflatable needs to specify this in the terms of the hiring agreement. It is also advisable for the provider to give the hirer clear guidance on what this means in practice. This guidance should cover:

  • the fact that the hirer is responsible for supervising the safe use of the equipment

  • safety limits (eg restrictions on height, weight and number of users)

  • relevant safety precautions (eg putting mats at the entrance/exit)

  • regularly measuring wind conditions

  • regularly checking that the anchor points are still secure

  • supervising the behaviour of children on the bouncy castle or other inflatable (eg not allowing them to climb or hang on the walls)

  • requiring children to remove shoes and glasses and to empty their pockets of all sharp or dangerous items

Providing this guidance not only protects the provider from any potential claims for negligence, it is also good customer service. Making a customer feel supported may encourage new and repeat business.

 

Businesses within the children’s entertainment industry may have their own individual practices and guidelines alongside the government’s. These should be highlighted on any marketing material and business websites, in case they need to be referred to in order to support certain restrictions or decisions.

For more information, see HSE’s guidance for the entertainment and leisure industry and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents’ (RoSPA’s) guidance on play safety. Ask a lawyer if you have any questions.


Jonathan Worthington
Jonathan Worthington
Director at Greenfrog Entertainments

Jonathan is the Director of Greenfrog Entertainments, who are specialists in bouncy castle hire and children’s entertainment. They provide families with a range of party equipment and entertainment services across the East Midlands.

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