Family & health

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Trampoline safety

Voluntary standards

ACC figures show that 7644 people injured themselves on (or around) a trampoline in 2013. That's up 10 percent from 6922 injuries in 2010. Over a third of claims were for children aged between five and nine.

During the three years from January 2010 to December 2012, 145 children under 14 were admitted to Starship Children’s Health with trampoline-related injuries. Falls were the leading cause of these serious injuries – accounting for 95% of admissions.

There's a voluntary standard here for trampolines but it hasn't been updated since 1997 and it doesn't cover safety nets or soft-edge trampolines. Across the Tasman, Australia's voluntary standard was revised in 2006 and covers soft-edge and traditional trampolines. But evidence suggests compliance is haphazard.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has also cautioned against home trampoline use. The US has a voluntary safety standard for trampolines that sets specifications for padding across the frame and springs. The standard also prohibits the inclusion of ladders, because these allow young kids to climb on to the trampoline unsupervised.

But it appears the standard hasn't worked – about 20 percent of US trampoline injuries are caused when the user bounces on to the springs or frame. This suggests padding hasn't lowered rates of injury.

The story is similar when it comes to netting and perimeter enclosures. Safety nets have been commercially available since 1997 (and a US standard for nets was produced in 2003). But they haven't reduced the proportion of trampoline-related injuries caused by falls – which remains at 27 to 39 percent in the US.

Research into the effectiveness of pads and enclosures has suggested some possible reasons why they fail to reduce injuries in the US:

  • Consumers may not always use the pads and nets that come with a trampoline.
  • When a standard is voluntary, products can be sold without adequate safety features (such as nets or adequate padding). And the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says that in many instances padding does not comply with the voluntary standard.

The safety nets on modern trampolines may give a false sense of security. Ann Weaver of Safekids New Zealand – a child safety service – says that the nets are not designed to be bounced off, but that’s what kids tend to do.

Trampoline safety checklist

The New Zealand standard for trampolines gives these safety tips for trampoliners:

  • Stop your bounce by flexing your knees as your feet come in contact with the trampoline mat. Learn this skill before you attempt others.
  • Learn fundamental bounces and body positions thoroughly before trying more advanced skills.
  • Climb on and off the trampoline – do not jump.
  • Avoid bouncing too high. Stay low until you can control your bounce and repeatedly land in the centre of the trampoline.
  • Focus your eyes on the end of the trampoline to help control your bounce.
  • Avoid bouncing for too long and don't bounce when tired.
  • Don't use the trampoline as a springboard to other objects.
  • Don't attempt somersaults without proper instructions and coaching (this is the cause of most serious injuries on trampolines).
  • Make sure children are supervised by an adult – and allow only one child at a time on the trampoline.

Setting up your trampoline

A trampoline must always:

  • be on a level surface with a clear space of at least 2 metres around it – make sure it’s far enough away from fences and outdoor furniture
  • have a minimum overhead clearance of 7.3 metres from the ground – watch out for wires and tree limbs
  • have no “obstructions” underneath it (for instance, don’t store things under it or allow kids to play underneath)
  • be in a well-lit area
  • be secured against unsupervised use (for instance, remove the ladder so young kids can't climb on to the mat)
  • be used only when the mat’s surface is dry.

Accident waiting to happen?

Here’s what to watch out for, particularly if you have an older trampoline:

  • punctures or holes worn in the mat
  • deterioration in the mat’s stitching
  • a bent or broken frame
  • ruptured springs
  • missing or insecurely attached frame pads
  • a sagging mat
  • sharp protrusions on the frame or suspension system
  • holes or tears in the safety net – if there’s one fitted.

Get problems like these fixed before the trampoline’s next used.

The New Zealand Standard for trampolines NZS 5855:1997 was used as the basis for our advice on setting up, maintaining and using a trampoline.

Our view

  • The New Zealand standard needs to be updated to include requirements for safety nets and soft-edge trampolines. Consumers can't be confident in the quality of trampolines sold here when the standard is out of date.
  • Mandatory standards make sense, despite the increased costs to consumers. There's only limited compliance with the voluntary standard in Australia and there's no reason to think our voluntary standard is working any better.
  • How the trampoline’s used is just as important as pads and nets. Don’t allow more than one child on a trampoline at one time.
  • When setting up a trampoline, always follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Safety nets within the outer perimeter of the frame are likely to provide some protection. This is because the frame is the hardest part of the trampoline and so is more likely to cause serious injury if a child’s head or spine collides with it. Nets on the inside edge of the pads could provide even better protection.

Report by Luke Harrison and Amanda Lyons.

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