4. An inspection body’s responsibilities

Design review

The design review should be based on the information provided by the manufacturer and, as a minimum, should include details of the following:

  • the construction of the inflatable including, where relevant, an assessment of the materials used, standard of fabrication and verification of any standards claimed in compliance
  • the intended use of the inflatable device including, where relevant, any limitations of use
  • the fabric used for the device including, where relevant, appropriate strength considerations, stating clearly the safety factors applied in the design
  • how the sealed inflatable will withstand the mechanical stresses that the internal pressure exerts on the fabric in any foreseeable operating and maintenance conditions − without risk of failure or degradation in performance. This may include, where relevant, verification by engineering techniques such as stress analysis, pressure test etc
  • the maximum inflation pressure, which must also be clearly and indelibly marked next to the inflation point
  • how internal pressure can be monitored while the sealed inflatable is pressurised, eg the availability of a tap-in point at the inflation inlet valve alongside clear instructions that the device must not be over-pressurised
  • the number of anchor points that must be used to resist foreseeable wind and/or other loads. This would normally be calculated and verified by the design reviewer and the total anchor points required must also be stated clearly in the operations manual
  • the maximum wind speed during which the device can safely operate
  • specification for all ancillary equipment (inflation devices, transport bags etc) required to operate the inflatable safely and maintain it in good condition
  • a comprehensive operations manual
  • a comprehensive maintenance manual

Initial test

An initial test is a test or series of tests to check that the device operates safely in accordance with the reviewed design specification and the instructions in the operations manual. This test should be carried out by, or on behalf of, the manufacturer, supplier or importer and witnessed by a competent person.

The initial test(s) should ensure, as a minimum, that:

  • the equipment functions safely and in accordance with the instructions in the operations manual
  • the overall dimensions of the equipment are in accordance with those in the operations manual
  • all safety devices, including pressure gauges, pressure relief valves etc, function correctly
  • the equipment does not fail due to foreseeable internal over-pressure, taking account of the safety factor determined by the manufacturer
  • the equipment does not fail due to foreseeable operational mechanical loads, taking account of the safety factor determined by the manufacturer
  • the equipment may be inflated, operated, deflated and packed away in readiness for removal and storage without the need for specialist knowledge or techniques
  • the maximum safe operating pressure is clearly and indelibly marked adjacent to the inflation port

An initial test is needed at the following times:

  • before first use of any device in Great Britain
  • before reuse after any safety-critical modification or repair (covering at least the parts affected)

The initial test/conformity test should ensure, as a minimum:

  • the device conforms to the specifications in the design review, including the dimensions, materials specification and intended use. This is particularly relevant when one design review is being used for a series of devices
  • the device can withstand the intended imposed loads. For example, if the device is to be a water tank it should be filled to maximum (or a small recorded factor above maximum) and any deformations assessed
  • any safety pressure-limiting systems work as intended, including stalling the inflation system (blower fan or compressor) if required
  • internal pressure is monitored during operation works as required
  • all safety markings such as maximum operational pressure are clearly marked on the device

Other tests may be required depending on the intended use of the device.

When the initial test is complete, the competent person should discuss any unsatisfactory results with the designer, controller and the person co-ordinating the design review. All results should be documented, including damage or failure. The competent person should also document any repeat testing carried out after any required remedial action has been completed.

A report of the initial test should be issued to the person who commissions it for inclusion in the operations manual. A report of a satisfactory initial test should not be issued unless the competent person has witnessed and verified that, at the time and place of test, the device performed safely.

In-service inspection

An in-service inspection should be carried out periodically (maximum 12 months) to check independently that the inflatable device is in good condition and good repair. The competent person who completes the in-service inspection should determine the inspection interval. The competent person should also make sure that all safety devices function correctly and within tolerance.

The key items on the competent person’s checklist for this inspection should include, as a minimum:

  • all anchor ropes and anchors are available and in good condition
  • the number of anchor points remains sufficient
  • the recommended anchor and anchor rope details are included in the operating instructions
  • the inflation device conforms to the original manufacturer’s specification
  • any devices fitted to the inflation source (blower fan or compressor) designed to prevent over-pressurisation are in good condition. Where possible, the device should be witnessed and tested to make sure that either:
    • the blower fan is compatible and stalls before the maximum safe pressure is exceeded, or
    • the compressor is fitted with a safety cut-out (pressure sensor or relief valve) to prevent over-pressurisation of the sealed inflatable
  • the fabric and joints are in good condition
  • where the failure of the device could result in people being injured the fabric strength remains within the manufacturer’s specifications
  • the maximum operating pressure is indelibly marked at the inflation point
  • the maximum operating wind speeds are clearly marked

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