While it may be hard to believe, there are currently no federal regulations in place for trampoline park safety. This is in spite of the fact that trampoline parks sent nearly 20,000 people to the emergency room in 2018, most of them children. Instead, statues dictating trampoline park inspections, equipment, and staff training are administered at the state level. These safety regulations, as well as waiver and general negligence laws, vary wildly from state to state.
A few states have taken the dangers these parks pose seriously enough to enact legislation. Take New York, for instance. Unlike many states, its negligence laws prohibit places of public amusement, including trampoline parks, from relinquishing liability via written waivers. This means that parents of an injured child may be able to argue that the waiver they signed upon entering a trampoline park is “void as public policy,” thereby giving them the opportunity to sue. New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo took trampoline park accountability a step further in December of last year when he signed Senate Bill 6600/House Bill 7250 into law. This set of bills ushered in some of the most stringent trampoline park safety directives in the nation. Under the new regulations, which are scheduled to take effect in April 2020, trampoline parks must acquire a state operation permit to be renewed annually and submit to regular safety inspections. The law also mandates participation in a statewide injury reporting and tracking system, creation of an emergency response plan to be activated in case of an injury, and extensive employee training in first aid and CPR. And, each trampoline park facility must maintain liability insurance of at least 500,000 dollars per occurrence – a rarity in an industry where most states don’t require parks to hold any amount of liability insurance.
To be sure, New York’s new trampoline park regulations remain an outlier in the industry. The majority of the nation’s nearly 800 trampoline facilities continue to operate in states that require little to no oversight, inspections, or employee training, all while raking in hundreds of millions in profit. Meanwhile, children keep getting injured, sometimes catastrophically. It’s no wonder the American Academy of Pediatrics discourages recreational trampoline use for children of all ages. But as long as trampoline parks keep misrepresenting themselves as safe places to play, families will continue to be at risk.
New York is on the right path towards ushering in common sense safety requirements for trampoline parks that will no doubt save lives, and hopefully other states will follow suit. But until then, children are in danger the minute they set foot in a trampoline facility.