Play Inspection? It is an MOT - but it’s not the law!
RPII Annual Inspection
Inspection is a choice. Best practice is a choice. Nowhere does
it say, ‘You must’. Play providers have a choice.
Safety inspections are not a legal requirement. That is where the
choices stop. Just ask one question, ‘Is it safe?’ For
an answer we need a consistent method to measure and assess what we
check for safety. That method needs to be to an agreed standard or
it would be meaningless. Help is at hand and the Standards
The agreed European and British standard for play areas and
equipment is BS EN 1176 while BS EN 1177 is the safer surfacing
standard. They are used to assess the safety of all outdoor play
areas and equipment. They are recommendations not legal
Why inspect annually? Because that level of inspection is
recommended in the Standards and is seen as Best Practice by the
Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The Standards also recommend
Routine and Operational Inspections.
Routine visual inspection is to spot obvious hazards. These can
result from vandalism, use or weather conditions and can take the
form of broken parts or bottles. Routine inspections may be
carried out daily or weekly depending on use. Suitably
trained grounds maintenance staff can do this inspection and make a
simple record of their findings. It may sometimes be part of
their job to clean the area and remove litter.
The Operational inspection is a more detailed inspection to
check on equipment operation and stability, especially for
wear. They should be carried out monthly or quarterly,
depending on use, or as indicated by the manufacturer. They
may be carried out by RPII examined and certificated
inspectors. Operational inspectors should keep records of all
inspections and some may carry tools and replacement parts to
repair and parts as they go.
Playground Annual Safety Inspections
The Standards require a competent inspector to carry out annual
inspections and submit reports. This is specialist work and
requires experience. In practice an experienced third party
usually carries out annual inspections. The inspector will be
independent of the play provider, designer, manufacturer and
installer. Their reports may be used as legal evidence in a
court case should litigation occur, or in disputes between play
providers and installers.
Annual Inspectors are also called on to check newly installed
play areas On inspectors’ reports may rest play
providers’ decisions to open the new play area to
children. Play providers want to know from a competent
inspector that a new play area has been assessed as suitably safe,
complies with the safety standards and has been installed
Just like vehicle MOTs, all playground safety inspections take a
serious look at what is present, its condition and its layout by
comparison with the standards for its age. Just like an MOT,
amendments to standards are sometimes made. Unlike a vehicle
MOT, compliance is not a legal requirement nor is Best
Examined and Certificated Competence
While local grounds maintenance staff can do routine
inspections, play providers need competent inspectors for
operational, annual or post-installation inspections. How can play
providers be certain of ‘competence’? That question and
varied interpretation of safety standards led four industry bodies,
API, ILAM, NPFA and RoSPA to set up the RPII in 1999. The RPII
(Register of Play Inspectors International) exists to certificate
competence in play safety inspection and eligibility for inclusion
in its register. This it does via its own examinations and lists as
Members those it certificates. Members are listed the RPII website.
The RPII examines competence for all three types of inspections:
routine, operational and annual. It sets the training syllabus and
runs the examinations but the RPII is not a training
organisation. It does, however, list contact details of
companies that offer training on its website. It is also succeeding
in minimising varied interpretation.
While inspection and reporting is not compulsory, play providers
have many reasons to ensure they comply with and beyond the
standards and guidelines. These include ensuring children’s
play areas are safe and minimising the risk of serious
injury. They help in maintaining play equipment for its
serviceable life to get Best Value from costly investments.
Play providers also want to avoid litigation and ‘no win no
fee’ lawyers as claims are paid from Council taxes. So
while inspection is a matter of choice, it is in practice, a play
provider’s route to Best Practice for safe play, Best Value
and their own peace of mind and avoiding litigation.