Outdoor Playground Inspections
As with indoor play areas, there is no current legislation dictating that outdoor play safety should be managed and assessed via playground inspections; that said, there are several organisations and sectors that recommend their implementation as a matter of best practice. They include:
- The British Standards Institute
- The Health & Safety Executive
- Insurance companies
The Standards adopted by the play industry that are expected to be met by providers of children’s outdoor play equipment are EN1176 (play equipment) and EN1177 (safety surfacing). By ensuring that regular playground inspections are carried out in accordance with these standards, owners and managers of outdoor play areas can be confident that they’re meeting their ethical obligation to protect users of their equipment.
This also offers site owners the peace of mind that if the worst should happen and an accident occurs, the courts will be satisfied that they have taken the appropriate measures to avoid such a scenario.
Outdoor play safety – inspection types
There are a series of inspections recommended for children’s playgrounds:
Routine inspection (visual)
This looks at the equipment’s basic condition, especially faults due to recent vandalism, breakages and cleanliness of the playground. These inspections may be carried out by the manager or their staff and should be recorded on a simple sheet or book. Frequency will vary according to the site and local usage, although weekly should be seen as a minimum. This will depend on the risk assessment of the site; for example, a site on a housing estate prone to vandalism may require a daily check, whereas a remote site in the Scottish Highlands may only need checking twice a year.
An operational inspection is more detailed, providing a quality control check on the regular inspection and used to identify certain types of minor wear and tear. Such inspections may be carried out by the manager or his/her staff and should be recorded. The equipment supplier should provide a checklist which will assist with this process.
Covering a wide range of outdoor play safety issues, this inspection looks at vandalism, minor and major wear, long-term structural problems, changes in the Standards compliance and design practices, risk assessments etc. Annual playground inspections should be carried out by a specialist who has no affiliation with the playground operator or manager, ensuring that the subsequent written report is entirely independent.