What to do about the new Land-Borne Inflatables requirements

This is a follow-up article to an earlier post on the new Land-Borne Inflatables (LBI) Technical Bulletin that was released by Worksafe in July. After a thorough reading of the Technical Bulletin and the associated standard, AS3533.4.1, and discussions with Worksafe and other engineers, we have put together the following process as a means to deal with the Technical Bulletin.

Firstly, it is worth remembering that the Technical Bulletin is not a regulation, in that it does not require a certain level of compliance in the same way as, for example, a Warrant of Fitness does. The legal obligation for LBI operators is the same as it always was, to comply with the Health and Safety in Employment Act, specifically the following duty:

“A person who controls a place of work must take all practicable steps to ensure that no hazard that is or arises in the place harms people who have paid the person (directly or indirectly) to be there or to undertake an activity there”.

The LBI Technical Bulletin is an Advisory document that sets an expectation for what “all practical steps” involves, but leaves the interpretation of that to the Operator. It clearly sets out an expectation that LBI operators need to have comprehensive hazard identification and controls, and that the preferred method to achieve this is through application of a standard, specifically AS 3533.4.1 – 2005 Land-Borne Inflatable Devices. At the end of the day, it is still up to the operator to control hazards.

In light of this, the following process is designed to apply AS 3533.4.1 in a way that will provide immediate hazard control for operators, through application of the sections of the standard that are most effective first (partial compliance), followed by application of the full standard in due course (full compliance).

The trick with full compliance to AS 3533.4.1 is that it requires substantial materials testing, and this will likely be impossible for existing LBI’s without effectively destroying them. The material tests are in the standard for three reasons, to test strength, toxicity and flammability. The strength requirement is substantially tested by other methods within AS 3533 (such as the anchorage test), so it is somewhat a double up, and toxicity and flammability are less likely to cause injury than structure collapse or getting blown away in the wind. Thus, a partial compliance option seems a reasonable step for in-service LBIs. However, it should be noted that partial compliance will leave an operator exposed to prosecution in the event that toxicity or flammability does cause someone harm. Hence, this is the process that we are recommending for LBI’s:


1.  For in-service (as of June 2015) “small” LBIs (backyard bouncy castle), the major hazards are likely:

  • Getting blown away in the wind
  • “Grounding” (not having enough air in the castle to make it bouncy)
  • Deflation leading to entrapment or suffocating

The appropriate sections of AS 3533.4.1 to deal with these hazards are:

  • Wind calculation to determine max. operating windspeed
  • Anchorage calculation and anchorage test
  • Grounding test
  • Blower inspection and test-n-tag of blower
  • Collapse time test

We can assess an LBI to these sections of the standard, and issue a Partial Certificate of Compliance to AS 3533.4.1 if the LBI meets the standard for these sections. If possible, we can also arrange materials tests. This might be doable if the LBI has been supplied with large patch pieces or excess material that can be removed. The flammability and toxicity tests can be done on much smaller samples, so as a minimum it might be wise to get these tests complete.


2.  For in-service (as of June 2015) “large” LBIs (titanic slide, etc), the major hazards will likely include all of the above, plus:

  • Slide acceleration being too high, with insufficient run-out or wall bounciness leading to injury
  • Insufficient wall containment allowing sides to fold over and patrons to fall out
  • Entrapment hazard

The appropriate sections of AS 3533.4.1 to deal with these additional hazards are:

  • Acceleration test
  • Containment assessment
  • entrapment assessment

Once again, we can assess an LBI to these sections of the standard, and issue a Partial Certificate of Compliance to AS 3533.4.1 if the LBI meets the standard for these sections. We can also arrange materials tests if required, this may be a good idea if you suspect flammability or toxicity may be hazards.


3.  For new (as of June 2015) LBIs, the major hazards will be the same. However, we recommend that AS 3533.4.1 be applied in full for new LBI’s. Unless the LBI manufacturer can substantially prove that the LBI has been manufactured to AS 3533.4.1 (and I would accept no less than a certification from Australia or New Zealand based engineers or Labs), it would be prudent to order the LBI with  with additional material for materials tests. This should include sections of material with example seams, as that is part of the strength tests.


4. For all LBIs (as of June 2015), there should be documentation around inspections, maintenance, supervision and operation. AS 3533.4.1 sets the minimum level of documentation, as summarised below:

Installation information:
(a) A list of equipment.
(b) The method of anchorage, number of anchor points and test method.
(c) The maximum safe wind speed in and out of service (deflated).
(d) Siting, height and operational space requirement.
(e) The maximum allowable slope of the site.
(f) Crowd control measures.
(g) The air performance requirement of the blower.
(h) That a residual current device needs to be used in the electricity supply.
(i) Lighting requirements, both operational and emergency.

Inspection and maintenance information:
(a) Post assembly inspection.
(b) Daily inspection.
(c) Annual inspection.
(d)Routine maintenance.
(e) Corrective maintenance.

Operating information:
(a) Staffing—minimum number of operators and attendants required.
(b) Supervision
(c) Patron limits—restriction of the maximum number of patrons at one time to the design number, restriction of the maximum height of the patrons to the design height.
(d) Environmental conditions affecting the set up of the device and patrons on the device, e.g. site suitability, heat, moisture, treatments for surfaces, e.g. slide mats.
(e) Patron dress code.
(f) Activity controls
(g) The procedures to be followed in the event of an emergency or accident.
(h) Refuelling procedures— for blower powered by an internal combustion engine.

We can help to assess the documentation you have available, and can collate and provide this information if required.

The Worksafe Technical Bulletin also states “WorkSafe has the expectation that operators will conduct hazard identification and risk assessment at each location prior to operation. Site specific hazard identification would likely include but not be limited to terrain, weather and age and expected numbers of participants”. The standard response to this type of requirement is a Site Specific Safety Plan, although there will be a lot of cross-over between the safety plan and the inspection and operating information.


And that is that. From conversations with LBI operators, my impression is that these requirements are not far from what is done in practice, but probably require tighter documentation. For those who see the mountains of paperwork that might result from the documentation requirements, there are easier ways to do it. For example, have a look at iAuditor, a smartphone app that turns inspections (and documenting the inspection) into a task no harder than posting on facebook.

Finally, we are available to discuss this process further with proactive operators, please call us, our number is at the top of the page.


 team member
Matt Bishop

BE (Hons), CMEngNZ, CPEng, HVSC
Managing Director

m +64 21 661 748