6. The operator’s responsibilities

This page covers the operator’s responsibilities for:

Positioning and set-up

As the operator, you have overall responsibility to make sure the sealed inflatable is located well away from possible hazards, for example:

  • overhead powerlines
  • obstacles with hazardous projections, such as fences

Operators of land-based sealed inflatables should use a ground sheet to prevent wear and tear of the base material if the ground surface is abrasive, oily or dirty.

Before positioning the inflatable, you must make a close visual inspection of the base area to make sure any discarded objects or other debris are removed. This will minimise the chances of the inflatable being torn or pierced.

Operators of water-based inflatables should use a suitable working area where they can inflate, clean and launch the items to prevent wear and tear of the base material. If necessary, provide a ground sheet.

Filling the inflatable

The sealed inflatable should be inflated ready for use in suitable weather conditions, in line with the manufacturer’s operating instructions.

The person or people filling the sealed inflatable must remain with it at all times during set-up. The power source (blower fan or compressor) must always be physically disconnected from the sealed inflatable once inflation pressure has been reached. This will minimise the risks from:

  • the power being switched back on by mistake
  • continuing to fill or overfill the sealed inflatable

Measuring pressure

The operator should take regular measurements of the internal pressure using a suitable pressure-measuring device. This is to ensure the internal pressure remains within the maximum and minimum operating range specified by the manufacturer in the operations manual.

An increase in the internal temperature of the air within the inflatable will result in an internal increase in pressure. The colour of the inflatable can play a part in any temperature rise, with dark colours absorbing a lot more heat than lighter ones.

The operator should decide whether to take additional pressure measurements on hot days and, if necessary, adjust the internal pressure to the level required in the operations manual.

Operating the inflatable outside

The wind forces exerted on an inflatable can be quite large and affect the safety of anyone playing on it.

As the operator, it is therefore essential that you monitor the local wind speed at the inflatable, by using a suitable anemometer and taking readings in the direction of the wind.

It may also be helpful to have visual indicators located around the inflatable, so you can check wind-speed warnings. The correct operation of these devices should be determined regularly, and they should be maintained in good working order.

Position the anemometer so it can measure airflow uninterrupted by the inflatable or adjacent structures. It is important that you constantly use this to monitor the wind speed. This is to give early warning of rising wind speeds and allow you to take the inflatable out of service before the limiting wind speed is reached.

Wind speeds can vary at differing heights and changes in direction. They can also be affected by funnelling through trees, buildings and other structures.

For permanent installations, it is important to have additional monitoring, as far as reasonably practicable, of:

  • the site’s land features (such as any hills or dips)
  • surrounding wind speed and direction

Wind gusts can be unpredictable so you should take the underlying wind speed and direction as far as possible. Always take a cautious approach, as gusts and drag have the same effect on the aerodynamic lift (also referred to as the aerofoil affect) as constant wind speeds.

Visually check for changes in wind direction, for example by looking at how the trees are swaying, to make sure readings are taken in the direction of the wind. If an anemometer is not available, the inflatable must not be operated outside.

Smartphone weather applications are not a substitute for an anemometer as they do not take localised weather wind conditions into account.

Sealed inflatables should not be used when the wind, or gusts, exceed the maximum safe wind speed specified by the manufacturer. This information should be stated clearly both on the inflatable device and in the operations manual.

Safe use of any inflatable

As the operator of an inflatable, you are responsible for its safe use throughout the day-to-day availability of the device to the public.

You must operate the inflatable according to the instructions in the operator’s manual, and comply with any operational limitations.

Make sure:

  • written safe operating instructions are always available with the inflatable
  • the number of users on the inflatable at the same time does not exceed the maximum number specified by the manufacturer
  • users of the inflatable do not exceed the height limit and bigger users are kept separated from smaller ones
  • anyone obviously intoxicated is not allowed on any sealed inflatable
  • users do not climb or hang from the walls unless the piece of equipment has been specifically designed for that purpose
  • regular checks are made to ensure that anchor points remain secure at all times

As well as these measures, there are specific actions you must take for inflatables based on land or water.

Operating land-based inflatables

When operating land-based inflatables, make sure:

  • there is constant supervision by a suitably trained person – this would normally mean at least one person per item of equipment
  • users are protected from making contact with protruding guide ropes and anchors – use suitable safety matting at the entrance that complies with British Standard BS EN 1177
  • users remove shoes and glasses and empty their pockets of all sharp or dangerous items

Operating water-based inflatables

When operating water-based inflatables, make sure:

  • there is constant supervision by a suitably trained person (or people) and the level of supervision is enough to prevent all risks from using the equipment – this should include the risk of drowning, and it should follow defined ratios or shift patterns to ensure constant supervision
  • where it is impracticable to hold the instructions with the inflatable, they are always available within the operating area of the site and all supervising staff are aware of these procedures
  • guide ropes used to anchor inflatables are monitored, as fluctuating water levels will affect tensioning on them
  • users remove glasses and empty their pockets of all sharp objects or dangerous items
  • users remove their shoes unless they are suitable water shoes
  • you adopt a zero-tolerance approach to people having consumed alcohol due to the increased risk of drowning

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