Bounce houses and other inflatable rides and attractions are some of the most popular items for party rentals, particularly for young children. They’re cheap, they’re portable, and they’re fun, so it’s no surprise.
Depending on the kind of news you watch, you may have seen stories about bounce houses being picked up in strong winds and injuring people, or children bouncing too far – or simply landing where they shouldn’t – and injuring themselves. You may even have seen reports saying that the majority of inflatable rental companies aren’t safety certified or insured.
So what’s the story? Are inflatables safe, or should you avoid them? And what kinds of regulations might come up, at the state or local level?
The Legal Definition
According to Texas state law, inflatables – whether it’s slides, bounce houses, or another kind of attraction – are classified as amusement rides.
Specifically, according to the Texas Occupations code, an amusement ride is:
“a mechanical, gravity, or water device or devices that carry or convey passengers along, around, or over a fixed or restricted route or course or within a defined area for the purpose of giving its passengers amusement, pleasure, or excitement.”
Further, amusement rides can be divided into Class A and Class B types. Class A are amusement rides with fixed locations, designed primarily for use by children 12 and under. Class B are any amusement rides that aren’t Class A.
Inflatables, since they are designed to be deflated, moved, and inflated at varying locations, are not fixed location rides. As such, that means they are Class B amusement rides.
You can read more about the Texas state regulations for amusement rides here.
One thing we would like to stress here: annual safety inspections and insurance coverage are the bare minimum we consider appropriate for any amusement business. A company that skirts around these regulations gives all of us a bad name and hurts the industry as a whole. Our goal is to provide you with the best party experience we can, from venue choice to post-event teardown. If you’re worried about safety, insurance, or certification, you won’t have the time or energy to plan a successful event. Leave those worries to us instead.
A good amusement company offering inflatable devices needs to be certified. Certification requires two things: active, valid insurance and annual safety inspections.
For class B amusement rides, the required insurance policies, according to the Texas state statutes, is either:
- Coverage for $1,000,000 bodily injury and $500,000 property damage per occurrence; or
- $1,500,000 per occurrence combined single limit.
A company offering inflatable devices cannot be certified by the state if it does not carry at least that much insurance coverage, though more than the minimum is acceptable. We carry full coverage insurance, and we highly recommend that any company you hire for a bounce house or other amusement ride have a similar amount of coverage.
As any good company should, we firmly believe that safety should come first. Our offerings are fully insured, safety inspected and certified. Where some companies might skirt by on the bare minimum, we make sure that we’re covered for any contingency, and that our equipment is maintained to avoid as many of those contingencies as possible.
As mentioned, in order to be certified by the state as an amusement ride operator, in addition to insurance, the company must have their amusement rides inspected for safety annually. That means once per year, each and every inflatable, ride, or other amusement device needs to be inspected for safety by their insurer, or by an inspector contracted by their insurer.
The specific requirements necessary to meet the insurer’s safety standards tend to vary depending on the insurance provider. They may include inspections to tie-down lines, the pumps that keep a bounce house inflated, the material of the bounce house itself, wear and tear, and anything else that the insurance company feels is appropriate to check, based on their data. Safety inspection points are also specified by the manufacturer of the inflatable device, so the insurance companies know what to look for.
State regulations list testing for stress- and wear-related damage to critical parts of the ride that are reasonably subject to potential failure and could cause injury as the result of said failure. For example, tie-down straps, if they fail, could send an inflatable device careening through the air with the potential to injure occupants or bystanders.
Of course, a good company will ensure that its inflatables exceed minimum safety standards and are well-maintained year-round, not just before an annual inspection.
One thing to note is that inspection certificates and insurance policy information has to be filed with the state prior to July 1 of each year. If the ride is inspected more than once each year, certification must be filed within 15 days of the inspection.
There’s more to amusement ride safety than just inspections of the materials and equipment of the ride. You also need to make sure that the ride is used properly. Our rides are designed such that they can be supervised by an attentive adult, with simple instructions. “Don’t go down the slide backwards”, for example. However, we are happy to provide a trained and attentive operator to oversee any of our rides for an additional fee.
County, City, Local, and Venue Regulations
Keep in mind that all of the above information applies specifically to state-level regulations. There are other sources of potential additional regulations, restrictions, or certifications that may apply to the company you’re working with.
For the most part, specific counties and cities are unlikely to have specific regulations beyond what the state enforces. It’s always worth checking with your local city officials to make sure, but in general, as long as a company meets state regulations, they will meet local regulations as well.
The primary cause for potential concern is venue-based rules. Some venues do not have space, safety equipment, or the right kind of surface for a bounce house to be used. Whenever you’re picking a venue for a party and you want to hire a bounce house, you should check with the venue to make sure you’re able to set one up. Double-check with both the venue and the provider to make sure everything necessary to set up an inflatable is provided.
Tips to Ensure Safety and Compliance
If you’re researching different sources for inflatable rentals, you want to make sure you’re getting a company that is fully certified and in compliance with the law. Here are our tips to help you choose.
First, verify that the company you’re looking at has an address for an office that you can actually visit. One of the biggest warning signs that the company you’re looking at isn’t certified is that they don’t have an address associated with their business. Many pop-up companies avoid insurance due to the expense, confident that state authorities won’t be able to find them before they fold up and disappear.
Second, make sure to talk to your prospective company about their insurance coverage. If all they say is “yes, we have insurance” but refuse to discuss specifics, you may want to look elsewhere. A reputable company will be more than willing to discuss their coverage and will meet or exceed the state-mandated minimum coverage for class B amusement rides.
Third, ask your company when the last time their equipment was inspected for safety. Companies must receive annual inspection in order to get their certification stickers, similar to vehicle registration stickers. If their most recent sticker is over a year old, or their last safety inspection (or the last inspection they passed) is over a year old, the company should not be contracted.
If you would like to verify that the company you’re looking at is certified with the state, you can check the records on the Texas Department of Insurance website. Commercial entertainment sticker records can be found on this page. Each sticker will have the name of the commercial operator – the business’s official name, that is – as well as the city and state where the ride is operated, the name of the ride, the serial number for the ride, and the date of expiration for the sticker.
The state also maintains a list of certified inspectors who can inspect amusement rides. You can view this list here in PDF form, or if that PDF has been removed, you can find a link to the most recent version under the “inspection certificate” section on this page. You may be able to ask your potential amusement company for information about their inspector and verify that the inspector is on the list.
If the company provides you with information about their stickers, you can check the sticker number and serial number for the ride against the TDI website to make sure they match. If there’s a disconnect between the two, verify that you have the most up to date information for both. If they still don’t match, this may be cause for concern.
Fourth, be aware that the price should not be your sole determining factor. As a legitimate company, it can be frustrating to find that we have competition from unscrupulous and uncertified amusement companies. Our prices may be higher than theirs, but that’s because we’re paying for safety, insurance, and legality. Unfortunately, you often get what you pay for, and paying for cheap rides may mean poorly maintained, poorly set up, or poorly operated rides.
In the unfortunate event that there is any sort of injury to anyone using an amusement ride (of any type, not just inflatables), an injury report must be completed and filed. These reports contain the name of the company, their location, the date of the injury, the name and information for the ride, and information about the injury and its cause.
These reports, much like certification stickers, are filed with the state and are kept on record. If you’re investigating a company and you’re not sure if they’re taking safety as seriously as you would like, you can check for any injury reports in the state’s database here.
To Sum Up
We know that all of the legal jargon can be a little confusing, and when you’re planning a party, there’s already enough on your plate as it is. That’s why we ensure that we comply with state laws, so you don’t have to worry about it. You can find our name on the safety and certification inspection lists, and we’re more than happy to discuss our certification, safety, and insurance coverage with you.
If you would like a more plain language version of the state regulations, as composed by the Texas Department of Insurance, this page is a good one to read. It covers all forms of amusement rides, both Class A and Class B, which encompasses everything from stationary carousels to bounce houses. Don’t worry; it’s not as complicated as it sounds.
The short version, really, is simple. Any provider of amusement rides, including inflatables, needs to ensure that those inflatables are inspected for safety at least once per year. Beyond that, they need to carry an adequate level of insurance. When both of those requirements are met, the company will be issued a certification sticker for each inspected and verified inflatable device. It’s easy to check the validity of those stickers.
The benefit of hiring a good company to handle your bounce houses is that you get to put all of this out of your mind. Making sure our bounce houses are safe is our job – enjoy the party!