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OC REGISTER: Trampoline Parks Facing State Regulation
July 25, 2013
LAGUNA HILLS – A bill aiming to place trampoline parks under state regulation and beef up customer safety monitoring is moving through the state legislature.
Senate Bill 256, now in committee in the Assembly, would create a statewide safety inspection program for trampoline parks – large indoor structures with adjoining trampolines children can bounce between. Many feature attractions like foam pits or climbing walls.
All trampoline-related injuries in the U.S.
No data measuring the number of injuries at trampolines exist, but the American Academy of Pediatrics compiled estimates of trampoline-related injuries treated in emergency departments and estimates of trampoline-related hospitalizations and deaths. These numbers represent all trampoline injuries, including backyard trampolines.
2005: 108,029 estimated injuries; 3,537 estimated hospitalizations
2006: 109,522 injuries; 4,793 hospitalizations
2007: 107,435 injuries; 3,188 hospitalizations
2008: 104,752 injuries; 2,843 hospitalizations
2009: 97,908 injuries; 3,164 hospitalizations
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics
About the bill
Senate Bill 256 would create a statewide safety inspection program for trampoline parks.
The parks would be inspected and regulated by California's Division of Occupational Safety and Health and be required to be insured for at least $1,000,000.
Cal-OSHA would formulate rules and regulations for the industry, hire or appoint safety inspectors, and collect fees and penalties for program or rules violations.
The facilities would be subject to inspections by California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, be insured for at least $1 million per incident and follow new rules and regulations. Cal-OSHA would collect fees and penalties for violations to pay for program costs.
The bill is in committee in the Assembly after passing through the Senate in May.
Bill sponsor Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, said the bill has received widespread bipartisan support. Amusement parks and water parks are already covered by Cal-OSHA, and the fledgling trampoline park industry fits squarely into that category, he said.
Lieu couldn't say for sure what regulations may look like but said examples could be guidelines for how trampoline parks construct foam pits or trampoline groupings.
"For the bad actors in the industry, this will mean major changes," Lieu said. "For the good actors, it won't be much of a change."
Greg Briggs owns Big Air Trampoline Park in Laguna Hills.
He said he isn't too worried about his 25,000-square-foot facility facing new regulations – it was built in 2012 following standards written by ASTM International, which develops voluntary standards for industries, and the International Association of Trampoline Parks.
But older parks could face significant financial hardships, he said.
"I worry a little bit about those who built their parks four or five years ago," Briggs said. "Hopefully there will be a grace period for those guys to catch up."
Briggs said he also expects a learning curve for state inspectors as they learn the ins and outs of the business, much like when water parks were placed under Cal-OSHA while Briggs was the general manager of the former Wild Rivers water park in Irvine.
"If we have the inspectors I've worked with before, we'll be in very good shape," Briggs said. "Those (inspectors) are anxious to learn, and understand it's a collaborative effort."
Lieu said the issue of trampoline park safety emerged for him last year, when he took his son to a friend's birthday party. He signed a waiver that raised a red flag, and watched small children bounce away near much heavier teens and adults.
"It didn't look safe," Lieu said.
When nonprofit organization Think Before You Bounce, which seeks similar trampoline park regulation across the country, approached Lieu, he agreed to sponsor the bill.
"When you go skiing, for example, people assume there's some risk to that," Lieu said. "But a lot of parents may not realize there are risks to trampoline parks. ... My goal is not to put these places out of business; it's to make them safer."
In 2009, the latest year for which statistics are available, there were an estimated 98,000 trampoline-related injuries in the United States, according to data compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Those include injuries on back yard trampolines. There were 3,100 hospitalizations.
Children younger than six accounted for 22 percent of injuries in 2005 and 37 percent of injuries in 2009.
No data specific to trampoline parks exists.
Tom Paper, president of Think Before You Bounce, said trampoline parks should do several things to promote safety.
Members of the organization helped draft the Senate bill and testified in hearings in May, including Maureen Kerley, a San Diego mother whose 30-year-old son died last year after jumping into a foam pit at a Phoenix, Ariz. trampoline park.
Paper suggested people of similar weights should jump together, with one person per trampoline. Users should watch a safety video before jumping, and parks should avoid marketing that encourages back flips. And all employees should be trained in first aid, he said.
"We're not trying to ban trampoline parks, just trying to see they're safely regulated," Paper said.
At Big Air, rules for each trampoline attraction are posted on a sign and at least one employee monitors jumpers. Every customer signs a waiver before jumping at the facility. "Highly trained" monitors watch for any rules violations and try to identify safety issues, owner Greg Briggs said.
Jared Marchbanks, floor manager at Big Air, said ensuring the safety of customers is the majority of his job. Employees are rotated every hour, and each attraction is checked at least once a day to make sure everything's in working order and clean. While back flips aren't banned at the facility, they're not encouraged either, Marchbanks said.
Big Air is working on a safety video to show jumpers, he said. About 500 people pay to jump daily, he said.
A few injuries, commonly rolled ankles, do happen, Marchbanks said, but that's to be expected at a place meant for exercise.
"Safety is my entire job," he said. "You do as much as you can, but injuries can happen at a place that promotes exercise. ... You can't get injured on the couch."
Earlier this month, parents crowded the Big Air facility, watching their children play dodge ball on trampolines, scramble across rock-climbing walls or swat at each other with padded staffs on the "BattleBeam" like contestants on "American Gladiators."
Parents said they were satisfied with the level of safety at the facility – rules for each ride were clear, and monitors were keeping a sharp eye on the jumpers, they said.
Many said they were happy with the level of exercise children were able to get.
"I think it's fantastic they can run and jump around like this," Laguna Niguel resident Debbie Cejka said.
Cejka's grandchildren Lola Manzanares, 9, and Joey Manzanares, 5, said they liked being able to jump off walls into foam pits.
"It's too fun to get tired," Lola said.
La Mirada resident Trisha Waite, keeping one eye on her daughter's progress on a rock-climbing wall, said she didn't see any glaring safety problems in the facility.
"For the most part, I think it's pretty safe here," she said. "It's very well-staffed. ... Safety should be on the parent, too, not just the establishment."
Still, few parents saw an issue with bringing state regulation into the industry.
"You can't have too much safety and oversight," Aliso Viejo resident Lisa Marking said. "I'm OK with the state inspecting (trampoline parks), as long as they didn't take the fun out of it."
OC trampoline parks
•Sky Zone Indoor Trampoline Park, 1301 N. Kellog Drive, Anaheim. 714-441-8999 or skyzone.com/anaheim
•Sky High Sports, 2970 Airway Ave., Costa Mesa. 714-437-5867 or ocy.jumpskyhigh.com
•Big Air Trampoline Park, 23251 Avenida de la Carlota, Laguna Hills. 949-305-9788 or bigairoc.com
Contact the writer: 949-454-7373 or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @MeganNicolai