Two fairground workers have been found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence after a bouncy castle blew away in high winds with a seven-year-old girl still inside.

Summer Grant died when the fairground castle she was playing in was picked up by strong winds and sent “cartwheeling” 300 metres down a hill at an Easter fair in Harlow, Essex, on 26 March 2016. Summer was taken to hospital but died from her injuries.

The court heard how on the day of the incident the wind speeds and gusts had been increasing throughout the day, with the highest gusts in the area of 35-40mph occurring late afternoon. But the couple continued to operate the bouncy castle and did not ensure that it was safely secured to the ground.

The case illustrates the importance of ensuring that outdoor structures are properly secured against foreseeable weather conditions. Responsible organisers with outdoor structures will have a wind protocol that ensures that the weather is monitored with an escalating set of measures to deal with worsening weather conditions.

In the case of bouncy castles and similar attractions there is newly updated guidance (2017) in the form of Fairgrounds and amusement parks: Guidance on safe practice HSG 175 which can be downloaded free from the HSE website.  Bouncy castles in particular should conform to BS EN 14960.

For larger structures the Temporary Demountable Structures – Guidance on procurement ,design was revised in 2017 (4th Edition) which can be obtained from the Institute of Structural Engineers.  This covers a wide range of structures such as seating, tents, pavilions, and stages.  The concept of ‘temporary’ usually means a structure which is up for less than 28 days although that is not necessarily definitive.

The defendants in this case are awaiting sentencing and will in all likelihood receive a custodial sentence.  New sentencing guidelines propose to increase the maximum term for Gross Negligence Manslaughter to 18 years.  In this case it was the operators who were prosecuted but in other circumstances the organisers of the event could find themselves facing similar charges or in the case of corporate failure, Corporate Manslaughter and charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act. Organisers should always ensure that they are following best practice guidance when it comes to the integrity of outdoor structures and seek professional advice if they have any doubts.

The views and opinions expressed in these blogs are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ESSA, its members, board or staff. Our members represent a broad range of views within the event industry, and we have provided this section of the website for their opinions to be openly heard and discussed.

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