Safety Tips for Bungee Jumping

By Laura Latzko

Bungee jumping is an activity in which people jump from a structure far above the ground, such as a bridge, while they are attached to a bungee cord. The sport is said to have originated in the South Pacific on Pentecoste Island, where natives jumped from bamboo towers with vines attached to their legs. The record for the highest bungee jump was set in 2002 by Curtis Rivers, who jumped from 15,200 feet above Puertollano, Spain. While bungee jumping can be a high-adrenaline activity, it is important to practice safe techniques because the activity can be deadly.

Equipment

Most deaths from bungee jumping occur because harnesses were not put on correctly. Therefore, it is important to have professionals help you put on your harness even if you are not a beginner. That means that you should go to a company or a club that specializes in bungee jumping. Make sure the club is certified by a government agency, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or the British Elastic Rope Sports Association. One of the most important services clubs provide is taking your height and weight measurements. This helps them fit equipment properly. Ankle harnesses are usually secured to both legs, and they are often used in conjunction with other harnesses, especially body harnesses. When using ankle harnesses, it is best to have your body facing the line of the cord, especially when the cord becomes tight, or you could risk breaking your ankles. Body harnesses are often attached to the stomach area to allow people freedom of movement with their arms and legs. This type of harness is similar to what people use when they are climbing. Another type of harness is the shoulder, or arm, harness. However, this should not be used by itself. Doing so would put your full weight on your arms, which could lead to a shoulder dislocation or other arm injury. Along with fitting harnesses, professionals take steps to ensure a location is safe for jumping. Such work includes ensuring that the bungee cord is anchored properly and other equipment, including airbags, is used as needed. For a safe jump, it is essential that the bungee cord is tied off in a secure location, one that is stable and will not be affected by added weight. Steel railings or safety fences often make good places from which to anchor. Professionals also will make sure that the bungee cord is tied with weight-bearing knots that will stay in place when gravity is pulling jumpers downward. In some locations, companies may place airbags, webbing or slings at the bottom of a jump space to guarantee the safety of jumpers. For inexperienced jumpers, locations with airbags and webbing can provide a safer place to start. Some companies may call off jumps due to inclement weather: Equipment may not work properly in rain, snow and other types of weather. Poor visibility and unstable wind conditions also increase the risk of injury.

Preparation

Individuals who are pregnant or have high or abnormal blood pressure; an irregular heartbeat; leg, back, breathing and circulatory system disorders; head injuries or recent surgery are discouraged from bungee jumping and should receive a checkup and advice from their doctors before bungee jumping. Although there is no dress code for bungee jumping, certain types of clothing can help keep jumpers safe. Clothing that is too loose should not be worn because it could interfere with the bungee cord. Accessories that could cause an injury if they fell off or came loose during a jump should be removed before jumping. Among these items are glasses, jewelry and contacts. Whether you are a beginner, advanced or professional bungee jumper, three-part classes that teach skills such as the inspection, testing and maintenance of harnesses as well as how to use slings, webbing and jump spaces are available. The parts of the classes are rescue training, bungee training and an apprenticeship period.

References

About the Author

Laura Latzko is a freelance writer based in Phoenix, Ariz. She has reported for the "Columbia Missourian," "Columbia Daily Tribune," "Downtown Express" and "Washington Times." She holds a Master of Arts in journalism from the University of Missouri.

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