Trampolines

Woman jumping on a trampoline enclosed in net

Do trampolines have more downs than ups?

Good design goes a long way in preventing injuries. We've tested 7 round trampolines against the Australian safety standard, all 10 feet in diameter and enclosed with a net.

We found 1 model that had no major safety failures. The other 6 either failed structural tests, didn’t protect the user from impact on the frame or enclosure, or had dangerous head entrapment problems or pinch points.

From our test

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How safe are trampolines?

In 2016, 11,580 injuries involving trampolines were reported to the Accident Compensation Commission (ACC). That’s nearly 4000 more since 2013. Many of the injuries were probably due to poor safety practices (for example, letting several kids bounce at the same time). Another factor could be there’s no longer a New Zealand safety standard for trampolines.

The standard was withdrawn in 2015 as it hadn’t been updated since 1997 – but that’s a poor excuse for not having a safety standard covering trampolines for sale in New Zealand, because good design goes a long way in preventing injuries.

Our test

We based our test of 7 trampolines on the Australian safety standard, AS 4989:2015. A voluntary standard, revised in 2015, it covers soft-edge (“springless”) and traditional trampolines. The 7 tramps in our test were all round, 10 feet in diameter, and enclosed with a net.

A trampoline undergoing a structural test.
A trampoline undergoing a structural test.

Our main test is a shock test of the padding or soft-edge system. We assess if they would adequately protect a child falling head first on to the pads. We also observe if the pads suffer permanent damage. We assess the structural integrity of the frame, mat and enclosure. Finally, we look for strangulation and hazards or places where fingers or limbs could get trapped, pinched or crushed around the enclosure and the edges of the trampoline.

Two testers assembled the trampolines, following instructions provided by the manufacturer. We checked out how easy the trampoline was to assemble, and how good the instructions were. We also looked at how relocatable it was once assembled, and assessed ease-of-access through the doorway in the enclosure.

What we found

Only the Springfree had no major safety failures. The other 6 either failed structural tests, didn’t protect the user from impact on the frame or enclosure, or had dangerous head entrapment problems or pinch points.

Springless soft-edge trampolines are becoming more common in the New Zealand market and are claimed to be safer because they have no metal frame or springs to hit and a more regulated bounce. However, what you gain in safety, you lose in bounce. Our testers found that the bounce on the springless soft-edge trampolines was focused in the centre of the mat. It also felt “softer” than the bounce generated by traditional metal springs.

What to look for

Space

First, do you have the right space for a trampoline? It should be placed on a level surface that’s free of hazards, such as furniture. The area around the trampoline should be covered in soft, impact-absorbing material (lawn, pine bark, wood chips or sand are good). Injuries commonly occur when mounting and dismounting.

Safety padding

The metal frame and springs should be padded to avoid injury if a child falls and hits them. The safety pads should be a contrasting colour to the mat – this helps define the edge of the mat more clearly. An alternative design that needs little or no padding is a soft-edge springless system, which has no steel frame or springs.

Netting

A netted enclosure helps prevent falls from the trampoline and we strongly recommend you only use trampolines that have one. The net shouldn’t be suspended from rigid, unpadded poles, as this introduces another hard object that could pose a risk. Ideally, the safety netting should be fitted on the inside of the padding as that reduces the chance of hitting the trampoline edges in the case of a fall.

Ladder

A ladder or steps to help kids climb on to the trampoline isn’t necessarily a good idea. If a child is unable to get up there alone, they may not be at the right developmental stage to use a trampoline at all. So we recommend limiting access to a ladder. A ladder can be used to help kids get on and off a trampoline safely, but it should be removed when the trampoline is not in use.

Instructions

Instructions need to be clear, comprehensive and complete with good text and pictures. They should specify how to assemble the trampoline, maintain it and use it safely.

Using a trampoline safely

  • A safety enclosure can help prevent falls but it’s no substitute for good safety padding and a sturdy frame.
  • Even with an enclosure in place, kids still need to play safely on the trampoline and with adult supervision.
  • Don’t let kids bounce against the netting on purpose.
  • One child at a time on the trampoline. Accidents are more likely to occur when more than one child is playing on the trampoline.
  • Large trampolines are not recommended for kids under 6.
  • Clear safety rules such as "one at a time", "bare feet only", and "do not use when wet" are good boundaries to set early on.
  • Jump only in the middle of the trampoline and don't jump off the trampoline when finished.
  • To control bounce, teach your child to focus their eyes on the trampoline.

Assembly and maintenance

Assembling a trampoline isn’t always an easy job – instructions can be complicated. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer or see its website for more detailed instructions and guidance.

  • Follow the instructions carefully. Getting things wrong, such as assuming the safety enclosure is installed last, often means complete disassembly is needed.
  • Some manufacturers offer an installation service for an extra fee.
  • Be careful – trampoline springs contain stored energy and some parts may be heavy and awkward to move and use, so you follow safety instructions (and common sense). Get someone to help you assemble the trampoline.
  • Check the trampoline regularly for tears, worn areas and bending in the mat, frame and safety enclosure. Before using, check the area around and under the trampoline is free from obstacles. Inspect the frame and springs regularly for surface rust, corrosion and deterioration.
  • Secure trampoline legs to the ground. This will increase stability and prevent unsafe or unintended relocation of the trampoline.
  • In-ground installation can reduce fall heights and possible injury. But you'll need to bear in mind that this will involve quite a lot of preparation (for example, pit drainage is essential).
  • Rotate the safety padding periodically to minimise degradation at the enclosure entrance and sun exposure if some parts are protected by shade during the day. This will increase the length of time before the padding needs to be replaced.
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