What is PIPA?
PIPA stands for the Professional Inflatable Play Association and is an inspection scheme set up by the inflatable play industry to ensure that inflatable play equipment conforms to recognised standards.
The scheme is supported by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who were consulted at every stage of its development.
How was PIPA established?
One of the main reasons behind the drive to establish PIPA was the recognition by the inflatable play industry that people’s safety and health, not to mention its own reputation, could be put at risk by a small number of rogue companies who were willing to cut corners and safety standards in search of a quick profit.
PIPA should eventually eliminate such traders by providing users and authorities with a simple way of identifying the professional companies who recognise the vital importance of users’ safety and place the highest priority on it.
The scheme was set up by all the trade organisations involved in the industry and as of 2019, the scheme was formally registered as a not for profit organisation, with any profits being reinvested back into the industry.
Why do we need a scheme?
While inflatable play is normally a very safe and a good way to exercise whilst having fun, poorly designed or badly worn equipment can increase the risk of injury to users.
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAWA), manufacturers, hirers, operators and users have a responsibility to ensure minimum risk. Clearly that risk is more easily managed if the equipment conforms to accepted standards. PIPA provides a means for everyone in the supply chain to know that the equipment itself is safe, both on initial use and throughout its life with ease.
BS EN 14960, the European standard that most manufacturers and some operators now work to, is the standard to which inflatable play equipment is inspected through the PIPA scheme. British standards are not the law but following them is regarded as ‘best practice’ and would usually be sufficient to demonstrate compliance with HASAWA.
How does the scheme work?
Each piece of conforming equipment supplied by a reputable manufacturer or importer is ‘tagged’ with a unique number which stays with the inflatable throughout its life.
The tag number is logged into a central database where the results of its initial inspection and subsequent annual inspections are recorded.
Anyone can access the PIPA database via the PIPA website and can therefore check the inspection status of any tagged equipment. A digital report is also issued with each test.
What if my inflatable has no tag?
As the scheme was first implemented in September 2004 and because every inflatable must, under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), be inspected regularly or at least annually then all PIPA inspected equipment will be tagged. If your inflatable has no tag then you should check its inspection status with the supplier.
Only Inspectors operating under either PIPA or the Amusement Device Inspection Procedures Scheme (ADIPS) are recognised by the HSE.
There are a number of Inspectors operating nationally who are not registered with either scheme. While they may inspect inflatables to the recognised standard BS EN 14960, their credentials are not supported by an independent body. The HSE have indicated that they do not support individual Inspectors.
What inflatables are covered by the PIPA scheme?
HASAWA states “any plant which is designed to be used by members of the public for entertainment purposes either as a slide or for bouncing upon”, and this is the scope of BS EN 14960. The PIPA scheme therefore covers only bouncy castles, inflatable slides and inflatable obstacle courses. Other inflatable devices such as bungee runs and rodeo bulls are not covered by the scheme.
PIPA registered Inspectors may be able to carry out independent safety checks on inflatable devices which are not covered by the PIPA scheme.
How can I get my inflatable equipment inspected under the PIPA scheme?
All PIPA registered Inspection Bodies can be found here: Find an Inspector
There are approximately 60 Inspection Bodies registered with PIPA located around the country. Given the variety of designs there is not a set price for an inspection under the PIPA scheme. We recommend approaching more than one Inspection Body to obtain quotes.
If the inflatable is tagged and I have checked that the test record is current does that mean everything is safe?
No, the PIPA report confirms that the inflatable was compliant (or indeed non-compliant) at the time of inspection. It should still be checked for damage before each use, and you should be aware that three elements make for a safe inflatable play environment:
- Properly manufactured and maintained equipment
- Correct operation (pressure, siting, anchorage etc) of the equipment
- Adequate supervision of users
The PIPA scheme is designed to cover only the first of these; the controller and/or operator is responsible for the remainder.
What should I check for?
- Check that any inflatable that you are offered for sale or hire has a PIPA tag attached and ask to see the current inspection report. If the report is not available, you can check the inspection status of any tagged equipment by visiting the PIPA website and entering the tag or report number or scanning the QR code on the tag for instant access.
- Ask the supplier for safety instructions and for confirmation that the required daily checks have been carried out. Remember that, unless you have made other arrangements, supervision of users on and around the equipment is your responsibility.
What are the risks of importing and operating inflatable play equipment from outside Europe?
When importing and operating an inflatable from outside Europe you have a legal obligation to ensure that the product is safe to use and complies to the relevant standard(s). For most products that can be bounced or slid upon the relevant standard is BS EN 14960.
To ensure that the inflatable is compliant, you should have an inspection undertaken by a competent person. A competent person is defined as one who has passed a relevant examination and is registered with PIPA or the Amusement Device Inspection Procedures Scheme (ADIPS).
In the event of an accident or investigation, as the importer, you could potentially be liable if the inflatable is found to be non-compliant.
Where in the law does it say that inflatables must have regular tests?
Sections 6.1 and 53.1 of Part I of HASAWA
Sections 5 and 6 of PUWER
Have PIPA released a statement on the incident that occurred in Harlow?
Yes. It can be read here.
Has a statement been released regarding the incident that occurred in Gorleston?
Yes. The HSE produced a statement. It can be read here.