Statewide safety standards for trampoline gyms on hold

Statewide safety standards for trampoline gyms on hold

(Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Despite push from city officials and even trampoline park owners, lawmakers decided last week to hold off on enacting statewide safety standards for trampoline gyms, wary of overregulation.

The unanimous decision of the House Business and Labor Committee left Spencer Merrill, whose son was paralyzed from the neck down at a Provo trampoline park, discouraged.

"It's disappointing," Merrill said. "It's too bad they're going to delay this. It probably should have been done years ago. If they delay this any longer, they just run the risk of having continual catastrophic injuries."

Merrill's son, Stephen, was a freshmen at BYU in 2011 when he and some friends went to Lowes Extreme Air Sports in Provo. But when Merrill leaped into a foam pit, he shot through the foam blocks and landed on his head, breaking a vertebra in his neck.

After his son's accident, Merrill realized trampoline parks have no set safety standards. He has spent the past several years working with Provo city leaders to put safety regulations in place.

Provo passed an ordinance to set safety standards for trampoline parks, but city leaders were left wondering whether more should be done.

"There needs to be a basic regulation for gyms statewide," Provo City Councilwoman Kim Santiago said. "If we have regulations for a gym in Provo, our constituents could still go to Orem, they could still go to other gyms, and we want everyone to be safe, not just the people in Provo."

According to data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, emergency room visits for trampoline park injuries ballooned from just 581 in 2010 to 6,932 in 2014.


Over that time period, the industry has grown from about three-dozen trampoline gyms to 280, according to the International Association of Trampoline Parks.

HB300, sponsored by Rep. Norm Thurston, R-Provo, would place statewide safety requirements on trampoline parks, including rules to ban double-bouncing or diving headfirst into an area of the park or any hard surfaces in bounce areas.

The bill would also require staff members to monitor the park at all hours of operation, yearly safety inspections of the park, and that the operator of the park maintains insurance liability of at least $1 million per incident.

"We just want to set some basic standards," Thurston said, adding that he's heard no opposition to the bill from any of Utah's 10 trampoline parks.

Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Photo: Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

Jacob Goodell, CEO of Trampoline Parks LLC and owner of Get Air in Murray and Kaysville, applauded Thurston for his work on the bill, saying it strives to match the minimum standards outlined in the National Trampoline Park Association's own gold standards for safety.

"We see it every day, what happens in our parks," Goodell said, adding that it's in park owners' best interest to follow safety standards to avoid injuries or being sued.

But Rep. Curt Webb, R-Logan, worried the bill seemed like a "fast dive" into regulation, which could potentially lead to overregulation.

"Maybe we ought to chew on this a little longer," he said.

Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, agreed, though he was generally supportive of the bill's mission.

The House committee decided to hold the bill, with talk of referring it for study over the summer.

Thurston said he hoped the bill would advance this year, but he understands lawmakers' wishes to take more time on the issue.

"I think it could be a healthy discussion," he said.


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