Playgrounds are some of the most cherished places in our local areas, and are the perfect place for children to socialise and play with others. However, in the construction of playgrounds, whether it be in a public setting, in a school or elsewhere, the proper safety rules and regulations need to be strictly adhered to. In this blog article, we will explore what some of these rules and regulations are, and how you can choose the safest playground surfaces and equipment to make these areas as safe as can be for the users.
Playground health & safety rules
There are many different factors that come into play regarding the health and safety of your playgrounds. The first are the UK laws that directly affect and cover playgrounds, and the second are the things you need to be on the lookout for when both installing new pieces of playground equipment and surfacing, or inspecting older ones.
Playground safety laws
There are a few laws and acts that affect playgrounds in the UK, with legal implications for those in charge of maintaining the playgrounds and keeping them in good condition. The following laws, acts and regulations are the ones you need to be aware of if running a playground in the UK:
Common law & negligence
This quite simply refers to any claims made by members of the public of negligence on the part of those in charge of the playground. Common enquiries in this area cover topics such as:
- Compliance to standards
- Playground inspections and maintenance
- Playground supervision
- Playground surfacing
While relatively few claims of negligence actually go to court, this is still an area that managers of playgrounds need to be aware of, and the appropriate measures need to be taken to ensure that their playgrounds are in the best condition possible.
Parliamentary laws & acts
The following health and safety acts will also affect the way your playgrounds are run and are ones to consider. These acts are not specifically aimed at playgrounds, but are instead ones that playgrounds may fall under. The following health and safety acts range from covering risk assessments of equipment and facilities, to the training of maintenance staff:
- Health & Safety at Work Act (1974)
- Occupier's Liability Act (1957, Revised 1984)
- Consumer Protection Act (1987)
- Children Act (1989)
- Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (1995)
- Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations (1999)
- Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations (2002)
To find out more about our safe playground surface solutions, check out out Surfacing page.
Playground health & safety standards
As well as the aforementioned health and safety laws and regulations, there are also several British standards that are relevant to the upkeep of your playgrounds. While these playground standards are not a legal requirement that you absolutely must adhere to, they are a good practice to be followed in the pursuit of creating a safe environment for users, and also in the event of any accident claims. There are two main standards that concern playground health and safety; BS EN 1176 and BS EN 1177.
BS EN 1176
BS EN 1176 is a British standard that regulates both playground equipment and the fencing that surrounds your playgrounds, in order to make them as safe as possible for use. This standard has seven different parts, which all cover varying areas of playground safety. These are:
- General safety requirements & methods of testing
- Safety requirements and methods of testing aimed specifically at swings
- Safety requirements and testing methods specific to slides
- Safety requirements and methods of testing aimed at runways
- Additional safety requirements and test methods for carousels
- Specific safety requirements and test methods for rocking equipment
- Installation, inspection, maintenance and operation guidance
The aim of this standard and its respective parts is to provide a safe playground environment for users, by outlining an appropriate safety system and removing unsafe equipment and areas of your playground. This should be accomplished through regular, annual risk assessments, with the correct measures taken when anything unsatisfactory is discovered. The standard also makes clear that emergency services should have easy access to all parts of your playground, and that all playground equipment should be installed safely according to both the manufacturer’s instructions and the national building regulations.
BS EN 1177
BS EN 1177 is a British standard that regulates other areas of playground health and safety, including the safety of playground surfacing, and defining the critical fall height (CFH) of your playground’s surfaces. The general guideline to follow is that the CFH of your playground surfaces should always be equal to or greater than the free fall height of your playground equipment. To help you accomplish this, the free fall height of playground equipment will usually be provided within the product information. At Morti Sport & Play, for example, we will always provide you with playground products and equipment with all of the relevant dimensions and sizes, so that you can successfully consider the safety of your playgrounds.
What are the safest playground surfaces?
When it comes to determining the safest playground surface to use in your playgrounds, you have a couple of options to consider, ranging from artificial turf or real grass surfacing, loose-fill surfacing solutions such as sand or woodchip, or synthetic surfacing solutions such as wet-pour rubber. In our humble opinion, the number one safest playground surfaces that you can get are synthetic options, for a variety of reasons that we will outline below:
Safe in all conditions
While options such as natural grass surfacing are a good choice for many playgrounds, they can change in different weather conditions. When dry, the earth can harden and lose its ability to absorb impacts, and become even more prone to wear over time. With a synthetic rubber mulch surface, for example, you do not have this problem, and the safety characteristics of rubber surfaces remain throughout all conditions.
Loose-fill surfacing solutions are another that can be very effective, but they can occasionally present some problems of their own. Depending on the loose-fill materials chosen, they can sometimes represent a choking hazard to smaller children, and the ease with which these surfaces are displaced makes them entirely inapplicable for use underneath moving playground equipment. Synthetic rubber surfaces do not share these problems, and can be used underneath all equipment no matter what.
Synthetic surfacing solutions such as wet-pour rubber are also arguably the safest option, due to the fact that they require the least amount of maintenance by far. With other options, you are required to keep them in shape for users, which leaves much more margin for error in both maintenance and risk assessments. Synthetic surfaces are hard-wearing and resistant, and will last for years after installation without degradation.
One of the only drawbacks levied against synthetic surfaces is that they are the most expensive, and require a professional installation – which other surfaces do not. However, we would argue that this is in itself a benefit, as you are paying for the very best playground surfacing option on the market; not just the surface itself either, but a professionally managed installation service. This means that there will be a much lower risk of errors in the installation that could cause problems down the line.
If you are interested in a professional installation of any one of our safe playground surfacing options, then you can get in touch with us. We can discuss your project in further detail and find you a bespoke playground surfacing option that looks good and, more importantly, is safe and secure for all of your users.