Bungee cords can be used in many ways, from tying down a load to bungee jumping. An elastic material, generally rubber, is formed into strands and wrapped in fabric to make a bungee cord. Bungee cords are useful tools, but can be dangerous if used improperly, or when they fail.
References exist that refer to India rubber as "India-bungie," and the slang name became bungie. This is believed by some to be where bungee cords got their name. Another theory says that the name came from "bangy," the Anglo-Indian word that refers to a yoke with two equal loads suspended from each side of it. The idea of a bungee cord is thought to date to approximately 500 A.D. on Pentecost Island in the South Pacific. The men of this island began jumping out of trees with vines attached to their ankles as a test of bravery.
Bungee cords are known for their elasticity and ability to absorb shock. The natural or synthetic rubber that makes up a bungee cord is known for its ability to regain shape after stretching and to be extended and not break under a load. Bungee cords are available in varying sizes, from 6 mm (.25 inches) to 1.6 cm (.62) inches in diameter. Because a bungee cord is sensitive to age, commercial bungee cords are covered in coloured fabric specific to when they were manufactured.
The elasticity that gives bungee cords their desirability can also cause safety concerns. When a bungee cord is suddenly released, the end can travel up to 97 kiometres (60 miles) per hour and can cause damage to anything that is in its path. This can happen when the end pulls from the hand while being stretched, the hook detaches from the cord or straightens out, or the attachment or cord breaks. The rubber in the cord can also deteriorate and cause the bungee cord to fail unexpectedly.
If a bungee cord comes loose or breaks while stretched, the flying end can be dangerous. Most injuries from bungee cords are to the eye. Injuries to the eye include bleeding in the eye, cataracts, tearing of the retina and other lacerations. These injuries can cause complete loss of vision, although most injuries cause only mild loss of vision. Failure of a bungee cord while bungee jumping would result in a fatality, so bungee jumping companies use strict testing and replacement schedules to ensure the safety of their cords.
Although bungee cords can be dangerous, there are a few safety measures that will reduce the chance of injury. Face or eye protection will help reduce the number of incidents, as will knowing how bungee cords should be used. Bungee cords should not be stretched beyond their length or load limits or be used to hold an object that reacts to air movement, such as a tall bookshelf in the back of a pickup. Care should be used when fastening a bungee cord and the ends should be attached securely. The face should be kept away from the bungee cord while it is being stretched to minimise the danger. When bungee jumping, ensure that the company is reputable and examine the cord for signs of wear and tear.
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