LAW

To find a playground that is completely safe might be difficult and even if such a place existed, the children would rather not played where (thanks to adults’ preventive measures) there is no space for exploring the young creativity. The more detailed we are at the inspection the equipment – the less joy kids have while having fun on the play area, that should be a place for bruises or scratches – the utterly connected to the childhood. Therefore we should aim at making the playgrounds as safe as necessary and not as safe as possible.

Every supervision and surveillance activities, either connected to playground equipment or any other product offered to the consumers need to be organised and focused (see the Dutch market surveillance office publication on effective supervision). Moreover it is good that those activities are communicated to those in whose interest were taken (take a look at the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority booklet on this issue).

The surveillance activities, whether taken by the play area administrator, or by the market surveillance public institution should be based on law and within the law of specific country. In some of them (for example Belgium, The Netherlands or Norway) there are specific regulations on the playground and playground equipment safety, in other (such as Denmark or Poland) the bulk of the legal provisions are stated in the construction laws. Regardless of national legislation, the requirements for the safety of playground equipment as well as for the playground surfacing are stated in two European standards: EN 1176 and EN 1177 respectively. The standards are subject to constant amendments, the latest were endorsed in 2008 and here you can see the main points of these revisions.

The standards are complicated, so we invite you to take a look at the publication aimed at informing and educating the playground owners or administrators, who will learn what the inspections should cover and how often they should be carried out, as well as what the most frequent problems are and how to avoid them. The guide outlines the basic requirements and standards which, if known and fulfilled by playground managers, ensure children and their parents to feel safe at playgrounds. You can also take a look at the presentations of experts in this field.

It will be much easier to assess the play areas safety using the tools, such as the checklist of key criteria which should be taken into account by inspectors while controlling playground equipment, or the test probes. Remember that whichever method of evaluation of children safety you will choose the main point of your assessment should be the risk management and the aim of this action is not to prevent the children get bruises or minor scars but to avoid major injuries.