Legal Safety Requirements For Children’s Play Areas

two children playing on a safe playground

Children learn through play and, even more so, when they are in a play area. However, these play areas are not always the ideal environment for children to play safely.

Some specific regulations and requirements must be met in children’s play areas. These may differ from state to state but in general, playground safety rules include:

1. Location

Choosing the right location or site for a safe playset area is essential. There is a multitude of factors that must be taken into account to meet the correct standards and requirements for play areas.

For example, the site should be free of any natural or man-made hazards such as free-flowing water (rivers), drainage or sewerage systems and dangerous rock formations such as cliffs. Ideally, the site should be located where children can safely access it without, for example, needing to cross high traffic roads.

2. Design

The design and plans for the play area must take into consideration all the factors that are naturally available at the set location as well as features that will be added.

Natural environmental factors include:

  • The flora in the location like trees and plants.
  • The fauna or animals and insects that may be present.
  • The type of soil or sand that is naturally available.
  • Any naturally occurring water such as ponds, dams or lakes.

Man-made features may include:

  • Pathways.
  • Seating.
  • Water or drinking fountains.
  • Fences and walls.
  • Gates or entry and exit points.
  • Artificial and natural landscaping elements that will be added.
  • The playground equipment.

It is best for the man-made additions to be integrated into the natural environment. All natural occurring features that could be deemed hazardous should be removed or made safe. Any functions that are added must meet the required safety standards.

3. Playground Equipment

Equipment is the most important aspect of playground design. Traditional equipment such as slides, swings, climbing frames and roundabouts must meet the necessary safety standards. Any alternative equipment must be certified as safe or may require safety testing before being deemed appropriate for a play area.

The scale is also important in considering the age group that the equipment and play area are aimed at. Smaller equipment is necessary for younger age groups, while larger, more exciting features will attract older age groups.

It may be required to incorporate different types of hardware and design features to meet the needs of different age groups. For example, a skate or bike area for older children as well as an open area for ball games and other activities may be suitable.

4. The Play Surface

Soft Surfaces Ltd Impact absorbing safety surface with wetpour graphics

Impact absorbing safety surface with wetpour graphics. Credit www.softsurfaces.co.uk

Hard play surfaces are not considered safe in a play area. Suitable surfaces include grass or lawn, fine sand and artificial surfaces that meet the regulated standards for play areas.

Surfacing depends on the type of play area. For example, the grass is more useful in open play areas such as for ball games. Sand or artificial surfaces are more suitable where playground equipment will be used.

Harder surfaces may be necessary for bike or skate areas. It is essential to check the mandatory safety standards for bike and skate areas as these are much more hazardous than any of the other elements that will be added to the play area.

5. Maintenance

Play areas need to be well maintained on a regular basis to meet the necessary safety requirements. Maintenance should be targeted at both the natural and artificial environment.

Regular cleaning of the area, as well as garden maintenance, will be necessary. Inspections of the equipment and other features to ensure their continued safety should regularly be performed. Items that are no longer safe must be removed and replaced.

6. Inspection

Inspection is the most important process to ensure the safety of a play area. The site should be inspected as well as plans and designs for the proposed play area before any work begins.

Equipment and other man-made features should be checked after they have been installed. Every aspect of the established play area should regularly be inspected to ensure that it is well maintained and remains safe for use by children and the general public.

Contact your local council to find out more about the regulations for play areas in your area.

Marie Noren