Safety in playgrounds is crucial, not just to keep children safe when using the equipment but also to give parents peace of mind and mitigate risk in organisations.
In fact, all playgrounds with playground equipment such as council parks and schools have an obligation to comply with the New Zealand Standard for Playground Equipment and Surfacing. This is a legal requirement, so organisations must take playground safety requirements seriously as to avoid any future issues.
For parents, safety in playgrounds is paramount. Yet while public playgrounds offer more fun and variety in an outdoor environment, they also come with less control and more risks. Parents concerned about whether their local childhood centre, school or council is meeting playground safety regulations have several actions they can take.
Some things they might do include:
- Look at the surface under the playground, ideally, it should be soft to cushion any falls. This may be composed of wood chips, sand, mats or some other safe material.
- Check for any hazards that could cause an incident, like protruding bolt ends, nails or S-hooks
- Check for sharp edges and points.
- Inspect the area for tripping hazards.
- Look for guardrails in elevated spaces.
- Check for flimsy or worn-out equipment.
If a concerned parent feels like your equipment is not up to scratch, you may find yourself in trouble with the law. It is helpful to know current playground regulations are quite strict and encompass things like:
- All equipment over 600mm needs sufficient fall space around it.
- All equipment over 600mm must be on 'loose fill' or a tested safe surface.
- Moveable platforms should have barriers if over a certain height.
- Climbing equipment cannot be on concrete, etc.
For more detailed information, we've compiled a playground safety checklist.
Our checklist states factors that councils, governments, playground centres and schools should look at in their playground assessments and when purchasing and installing new equipment.
- Rusting, bending, cracking, warping or breakage of the equipment or its components
- Splintering wood (if wooden equipment)
- Temperature, especially under direct sunlight (for metal equipment)
- Loose or protruding nuts, nails and/or bolts
- If swing chains are securely attached
- Signs of vandalism (bottles, graffiti, glass)
- Poisonous plants, fungi or animal faeces
- Tripping hazards (tree stumps, rocks, etc.)
- Slipping and drowning hazards
- Chipping/peeling paint
- Sharp edges/points
- Latching devices
Keep in mind there are other non-physical factors that can contribute to safety in the playgrounds. For example, talking with children about the rules of the playground and how to use the equipment can go a long way towards avoiding any accidents. As always, children should be under adult supervision when using the equipment. Also consider that not all equipment is designed to cater to multiple children, or all age groups.
Playground safety regulations are tougher than you may first think. Safety in the playground is not just important for concerned parents but also councils, playground centres and schools alike. For more information visit our website today.