“A playground that leaves a child permanently disabled is not acceptable. Playground operators, designers, manufacturers, importers, distributors, retailers, consultants and those involved in the aspect of maintenance and certification of equipment must take every possible care to identify and eliminate unacceptable playground risks and reduce hazards” (foreword of AS4685.1 – 2004).
Causes of public playground injuries
Whilst it is recognised that children will experience minor injuries as they grow and learn in playgrounds and away from them, the condition or state of repair, including the height of the apparatus and the nature and depth of the playing surface are major risk factors. Standards exist in relation to general safety requirements; installation, inspection, maintenance and operation of playgrounds as well as Standards for specific apparatus. Unless all aspects are addressed simultaneously, the risk of preventable injury remains.
The Law - occupiers liability
Standards are not mandatory. However, compliance represents good practice and is highly likely to be referred to in court actions. The playground owner has a DUTY of care for all users and visitors, and a reasonable STANDARD OF CARE should be applied to the playground to prevent injury or loss.
The potential for injury to occur is minimised through compliance with the relevant Australian Standards, incorporating best practice, and ensuring effective, well-documented design, inspection, and maintenance.
Those involved in and around playgrounds should be PRO-ACTIVE (prevent a problem) and Not REACTIVE (only correcting problems when they occur).
Due diligence requires that the user take all circumstances and aspects into consideration as to minimum performance and best practice in determining issues that relate to the management of risk.
What is an audit?
An audit is a comprehensive document and detailed inspection of all items within the playground use zone and those items immediately adjacent and continuous to the playground.
Purpose of playground inspections
The purpose of safety audits is to identify and report on non-conforming and potential hazards on and in the playground. It takes into account the equipment, designs, installation, and maintenance, as well as environmental conditions that could present unacceptable risks to children/users.
Who should conduct playground safety inspections?
AS4685.0:2017 clause 8.5.7 states:
“Individuals performing tasks such as assessment, inspections, repairs and maintenance shall be competent to perform the task that they are undertaking.”
AS4685.0:2017 Clause 5.1 Competent person states:
“A person who has acquired through training qualifications or experience or a combination of these, the knowledge and skills enabling that person to perform a specified task.”