Inflatables are rather popular among children in warm season. However, the majority of them are operated with violations, while municipal authorities don’t monitor safety standards.
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This journalistic investigation was prepared together with the journalists of PolitKlinika media outlet.
Bishkek has many entertainment venues for children. Inflatables are the most popular ones. However, not all of them are safe, and some can even cause injuries to children if misused.
Inflatables are inflatable devices used for playing of children and adults. They can have various forms, sizes and colours. They are made of high-strength PVC materials and use air blowers. Such inflatables usually have mesh protection and are intended for children aged 2-12 years old. Relatively low prices of inflatables make them widely used and popular not only in Kyrgyzstan. They are installed in parks, near malls, and during open air celebrations.
This summer, the inflatable was overturned by a strong wind gust in the town of Balykchy, Issyk Kul region. Eight children got injured, four of them were hospitalised with different injuries. A three-year-old girl had a severe head injury. She was transferred from the Balykchy hospital to the intensive unit of the National Maternity and Child Health Centre in Bishkek.
But on June 19 the girl died from unsurvivable injuries. The older sister of the deceased girl, who was also in the inflatable during its overturn, was diagnosed with the closed fracture of the lower leg.
According to the General Prosecutor Office, 4 pre-trial cases were registered in 2019 related to inflatables installed for children.
“From January to July 22, 2019, the automated information system of the Unified register of crimes and offences of the Kyrgyz Republic registered 4 pre-trial cases. One person has died. Currently, the above documents are pending,” said the General Prosecutor Office representative.
Inflatables installed in city parks have no certificates
There are 3 functioning inflatables in warm season in the Panfilov Central City Park (also known as “Panfilov park” – editor’s note) in the centre of Bishkek. Two inflatables do not meet safety requirements according to the technical regulation of the EAEU TR EAEU 038/2016 “On the safety of amusement rides” adopted by decision of the Council of the Eurasian Economic Commission dated October 18, 2016 and effective since 18.04.2018 in the Kyrgyz Republic.
The inflatable installed on the side of the White House is not secured to the ground as required by the technical regulation of EAEU 038/2016 “On the safety of amusement rides”. It must be tightly secured to the ground with metal ground stakes or ballast. The inflatable should be secured with special anchor points.
Another city park named after Kemal Ata Turk (also known as “Ata Turk park” – editor’s note) had 4 functioning inflatables. None of them was secured to the ground with special ground stakes and ropes or ballast. According to the same EAEU regulation, every inflatable must have operational documentation and approval.
Gulbara Ibraimova, who works in this sphere in the Panfilov park, admitted she doesn’t have an approval for the inflatable.
“To be honest, I have no approval. We work by consent of the park administration,” she said.
Safety rules of inflatable use and storage:
- The inflatable should be tightly secured to a flat and clean surface;
- The inflatable must be enclosed. The enclosure must prevent visitors and children from accessing the fan, and the elements of the inflatable attachment system;
- The inflatable must be checked. All seams must be intact;
- When used outdoors, it must be tightly secured to the ground with rigid fasteners, or if impossible, with a ballast (special ground stake securing the inflatable for its stability and safe use);
- Only children aged 3-8 years old, whose aggregate weight should not exceed 120 kg (up to eight children), may play on inflatables. Test load on the inflatable is estimated up to 600 kg;
- In case of sudden power loss, all children must be taken outside within 5 minutes;
- After operation, the inflatable should be kept at the temperature 0-35°C and relative humidity 30-80%;
- To avoid any damage after deflation, the inflatable must not be left on the ground or cement for a long time.
Operators of the inflatables must:
- 1. Know the safety rules and operation rules of the inflatables;
- Know how to provide first aid;
- Explain safety rules to children;
- Watch the operation of the compressor. Unauthorised persons must be kept away from the device.
Entrepreneurs are responsible for the safety of inflatables
In order to find an authority responsible for the operation of inflatables, we applied to a few municipal authorities to get their explanations:
– To Bishkek city inspectorate of environmental and technical safety;
– To Land Resource Office of the mayor’s office of Bishkek;
– To Bishkekglavarhitektura;
– To municipal enterprise “City parks” and directors thereof;
– To the municipal property office of the mayor’s office of Bishkek;
– To the mayor’s office of Bishkek.
After numerous requests and applications to the said authorities, we have found out that none of the state authorities is responsible for safe use of inflatables.
“As we lease out land, we can control only the requirements that are provided in the lease agreement. For example, the timely payment of rentals,” said Mirlan Akhmetov, head of the department of the Land Resources Office of the mayor’s office of Bishkek.
How parents feel about the safety of their children?
A Bishkek resident, Shaiyr, often comes with her child to the inflatable near the Ala Too cinema in warm season. She said she has never thought of the safety of such inflatables.
She replied to the question of the journalist about whether she paid attention to the fact that the inflatable was not secured to the ground, which can create risks to the health of children:
“I didn’t pay attention. There are trees around. We do look after our children. So I allowed my child to play on the inflatable without any doubt. How else can we entertain our children?” she looked at us.
Entrepreneur Altynbek Beishenaliev said he was ready to be held liable if children get injured due to a problem with his inflatable:
“We take the land on lease and install the inflatables. Every month we pay 25 thousand som. We have been examined by the commission,” Beishenaliev said.
Three-year moratorium on land lease was imposed in Bishkek. But inflatables still operate
Mirlan Akhmetov, head of the department of the Land Resources Office of the mayor’s office of Bishkek, noted that currently the installation and operation of inflatables in Bishkek are deemed illegal.
“From April 2, 2019, the Bishkek City Council imposed a moratorium on the municipal land lease. The moratorium will be effective for three years. It means that the land won’t be leased out for the installation of inflatables in the near future. However, we cannot control their technical safety. Bishkek has only three inflatables that operate under agreement and legally. As this is a seasonal work, the agreement is being updated every five months. We have not entered into land lease agreements with anyone. All entrepreneurs related to inflatable rentals have not entered into any agreements with us,” the head of department said.
Municipal authorities could not provide accurate information about the number of operating inflatables in Bishkek.
According to the estimates of the authors, 3 inflatables operated in the Panfilov park as of September 2019, 4 in the Ata Turk park, 1 near the Ala Too cinema, 1 near the Kurmandzhan Datka monument, 1 at the intersection of Akhunbaev Street and Magistral, 1 in the Oak park of Bishkek (near the Kurmandzhan Datka), 1 on the Molodaya Gvardia boulevard, and 1 near Alamedin market.
Thus, there are no authorised bodies in Bishkek responsible for the safe operation of inflatables; city institutions control only the process of land rental payment. No one is responsible for the safety of children.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project. The opinions expressed in the article do not reflect the position of the editorial or donor.