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What are the laws in regards to hiring out inflatables (and in particular what does the law say about annual testing?)

1. The HSE is not a legislative body. Government makes the law and then HSE are the appointed body to deal with the laws that come under their jurisdiction. They are also the body that would investigate and bring any prosecution that result from any breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act (HASAWA) and the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER). These are the two regulations that affect ALL hirers. It is also worth pointing out that HSE are more reactive than proactive. In other words they respond to incidents as a priority and just simply do not have the man power to check on every company in the country. However, they do give advice on how businesses can achieve their requirements in law and this is known as 'best practice'.

2. ALL hire equipment is considered, in law, to be work equipment which is why it is covered by the PUWER regulations. If you didn't have the equipment for your work then you wouldn't have a business.

3. Under the PUWER regulations all equipment should be tested at whatever intervals applies to that particular type of equipment. In the case of inflatables that is annually. This why having an ANNUAL TEST IS LAW. PUWER isn't specific to our industry.

4. HSE have stated that in respect of the annual test on inflatable play equipment those that use the ADIPS or PIPA scheme will be deemed to have followed 'best practice'. HSE are not allowed to endorse or demand that operators use any particular scheme or tester which is why we have this 'competent tester' thing. I tend to agree that it is a pain but, for now, we are stuck with it. However, by following an advised 'best practice' as an operator you will tick all the boxes in respect of compliance with PUWER on the annual testing requirement.

5. RPII and PIPA tests are exactly the same test. The RPII registered examiner carries out the test using the European Standard BS EN 14960:2006 as the basis for the test. PIPA provides the tag, certificate and recording of tags and certificates. Nothing else. They only use RPII registered examiners and these register with PIPA and buy the tags and certificates from them.

6. Confusion -- The European Standard BS EN 14960:2006 IS NOT LAW, neither is having a RPII or PIPA test. It is having an annual test that IS LAW. The problem for an operator is how to comply with the law. Easy answer use PIPA or RPII inspector and you have achieved 'best practice' ie complied with the law in respect of appointing a competent annual tester. Having explained that BS EN 14960:2006 is not law it is the only document the industry has t work on. Bear in mind that HSE has already bought several successful prosecutions quoting sections of BS EN 14960:2006 as part of the prosecution. All other previous documents that the industry used to use as a guideline have now been withdrawn so our only reference guide is BS EN 14960:2006.

7. BS EN 14960:2006 covers the manufacture, installation, operation and supervision of inflatable play equipment that is bounced on or slid on by persons of certain heights. Note heights not ages. However, it is absolutely possible to test any inflatable using the BS EN 14960:2006 as a guide. Formulas for working out number of anchor points etc are exactly the same. HSE used BS EN 14960:2006 in a prosecution involving a Bungee Run that blew away.

8. Competent tester -- Any operator can use whoever they wish to test their equipment annually. Using a RPII registered inspector will cover the competency issue as they are accepted by HSE as being so. If it transpired that the RPII inspector was not competent in issuing a certificate it would fall back initially on the inspector, that is why he needs insurance, and possibly on the RPII. If as an operator you employ anyone or self test then, following an incident, the HSE would assess your examiners competence by whatever means they choose. You could also be liable, under new regulations, for any expenses incurred by HSE in assessing your examiner.

9. Pricing -- the cost of tests does vary as we have 'competition laws' and laws against 'price fixing'. Each inspector does have their own pricing structure and they are entitled to charge what they see fit. The price of PIPA tags and certificates is fixed by MUTA although there are discounts available to some organisations. As a business owner it is up to you to shop around for a price and service that is suitable to you.

In summary

1. All those who run any sort of business have to comply with certain laws.

2. People who run any kind of hire business must ensure that the equipment complies with the PUWER regulations. Even if you man all your equipment it is still work equipment.

3. All inflatable play equipment requires an annual test. This test has to be carried out by a 'competent person'. Competency is proved if you use a registered RPII inspector. Using any other tester you would be required to prove competency in the event of an incident. This could involve additional expense.

4. If you do not have annual test certificates then you could find your insurance is void. Check the small print of your policy.


I've tried to explain in the simplest way the issue of testing, what is required in law and the easiest way for you to comply with the law. I've explained the alternatives and the possible disadvantages that could apply.

I personally may not agree with some elements but I am not voicing an opinion just stating FACTS. One of the biggest changes in our industry over the last 15 years is that there is far more information readily available to operators and 'ignorance' is no answer in law. Ultimately it is up to you to find out what is required to run your business legally. It is no one's responsibility to lay it on a plate although there are plenty of resources available to you.

We acknowledge our thanks to Peter Grand (INPA/TIPE) for writing this post on the discussion forum of this site (29-3-2012).

To read this forum thread in it's entirety please click on:

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