How to buy an inflatable! Part 4 - Safety & Compliance.




Welcome to Part 4 of our 8 part Blog Series on

 "Certification required to ensure your inflatable is safe and compliant with Australian and International Standards"

This blog essentially deals with the compliance and certification requirements.  This determines the most important aspect of every inflatable - no matter how big or how small - SAFETY!

Overview
Having your products well-made by recommended and quality suppliers means that they have been designed by experienced personnel who have actually operated these products. They have been engineered by people who understand the operational forces and wear that the products go through.  This knowledge can then be translated into well specified and detailed products that are not only strong and reliable but also easy and safe to operate. Finally, this knowledge and understanding enables your supplier to communicate and understand your needs and can accurately interpret what you want into a final product.


Hazards
In order to appreciate the safety requirements of an inflatable product, it is important to understand the hazards:
    Image result for hazards
  • instability and blowing away in windy conditions
  • loss of pressure due to seam or zip 
  • Loss of pressure as a result of
    • Failure of the fabric zips and seams
    • Failure or loss of power of the blower
    • Disconnection of the blower
    • Litter blocking the air intake
  • Falls from the structure
  • Tripping over anchorage
  • Injury to users due to overcrowding
  • Access to dangerous parts of machinery
  • Electrical hazards 
Compliance Certificates
Building a product to standards that are internationally accepted only begins the purchasers journey to restful sleep.

It is now common practice in Australia that operators need to have in their possession the compliance and operational certificate when working in any public area. Operators are also required to make that certification available to the administration, council or operators of the venue where your inflatable will be operational. It needs noting here that your insurance company may only cover those products that have the required certification.

In most cases the following certification will be required:

  1. A certificate of build compliance
  2. An operational certificate
A certificate of build compliance needs to indicate :

  1. What standards were use in its build?
  2. What materials were used in manufacturing the unit?
  3. Are the materials used  fire retardant [ FR]? – always a requirement for shelters.
  4. What Testing has been done on the tether points and to what strength are they manufactured?
  5. What tether lines are used and what is their tested strength?
An Operational Certificate needs to indicate:

  1. That the unit has a Certificate of Build compliance to Australian Standards.
  2. How the tethering is set up?
  3. To what wind rating the unit is designed.
  4. how much weight is required to hold it safe on the ground in specifically enumerated  wind conditions.
Manufacturers duties
Safety can be improved by ensuring the manufacture and design of the inflatable is suitable, using appropriate materials of good quality and designs which are highly engineered to overcome potential hazards

Design Considerations
In the design of inflatables, designers need to have a basic understanding of engineering and architectural design  to ensure:Image result for design
  • No equipment or parts will cause injury
  • No trapping points between adjacent surfaces
  • The number of users at any given time on the equipment is specified in the user manual to ensure the structure can safely contain the users
Anchorage
The inflatable should be provided with adequate anchorage and these should be suitably protected.  The size, number and strength should be adequate for the structure and take into account the likely wind loading. 
Image result for fans to inflate inflatables
Fans
These should always be located at the point where there is no access required by any users so that there is no need to attend to that part of the inflatable, like the rear provided the inflatable has no engaging points for use by users.  They should also be as close to the base of the inflatable as possible to ensure the slowest deflation if the fan fails.

Materials
The flexible fabrics used in the construction of inflatables needs to be of adequate tear and burst strength and have sufficient air retention to enable the structure, when pressurised to the level specified, to maintain its shape and prevent the structure distorting under load. Adhesives should be strong enough to withstand the strength of the fabric. Threads for seams need to be fit for purpose. Zippers need to be able to withstand the air pressure.

Documentation requirements on delivery
An inflatable manufacturer should be able to provide you with the following documentation:
  • Certification that the inflatable has been manufactured to at least Australian Standards
  • An operating manual detailing set up
  • Limits on user numbers at any given time
  • Weather conditions in which inflatable cannot be used
  • Anchorage arrangement and requirements
  • Details of routine maintenance and inspection
Annual Inspection
The manufacturer of your inflatable should provide the services (at a cost) of an annual thorough inspection and should be capable of providing:
  • Inspection reports and certificates
  • Inspection of fans for pressure and safety requirements
  • Anchorage system for wear and tear, rips or chafing
  • Structure for wear or rips in fabric
  • Seam structure, wear or tear
Why do we use Australian Standards to guide the building of an inflatable ?
Inflatable can become a danger if not built, operated or maintained properly.

Firstly the materials from which they are made must be safe through all types of operational modes and to all those who come in contact with it. That means the materials may need to be Fire Retardant, Contaminant free and anti-allergenic. The material also needs to be able to be soft and pliable enough to be folded and packed numerous times without damage.
Damage or failure to the inflatable due to folding, rolling and folding is a very common occurrence when the product is made from inferior materials  that are cheap and stiff  and not suitably scoped to the function.

Secondly the hardware used needs to be of a sufficient quality to withstand constant use in all manner of conditions especially at the edges of the operational envelope. At these conditions only well-made and high standard hardware will survive. High stress areas are on the zips and tie points and these are often areas where shonky supplier’s cut costs because good quality products are not cheap.

Lastly the inflation systems are all important to maintain safe and efficient operation
The inflation system includes the blowers or fan, the inflation pipe or tube and the valves [when Inflate and Go technology is being used].

Here once again quality product costs more but will give operators a much more reliable outcome.
The advantages of better quality inflation equipment are numerous:

  1. Quieter and more efficient fans;
  2. Long life and low cost operation;
  3. Superior protection in wet conditions;
  4. Efficient air transfer requiring lower powered fans;
  5. Valves that can be manually and remotely opened and closed make everyday operation much easier. Well-crafted hardware of this nature also keeps operating at peak performance over long and extreme conditions without failure. Cheap valves tend to fail early in life due to ill-fitting sub-assemblies and low quality springs.
A savvy operator needs to know with certainty that spares are always available. Its important  here to note that only compliant product will have the  documentation that makes getting the right spare a 100% certainty every time.

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