Indoor playgrounds and activity parks
The party maintaining an indoor playground or an activity park is responsible for safety by law. The liability cannot be assigned to the customers by means of any disclaimers, for example.
Indoor playgrounds are usually sporty playrooms meant for small children, while activity parks are typically sports centres meant for somewhat older children and adolescents.
The Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) oversees the safety of indoor playgrounds and activity parks.
Documents in order
A party maintaining an indoor playground or an activity park must prepare a safety document. The safety document must include a plan on identifying and managing risks, and a plan on communicating information about the risks. The safety document must pay special attention to the procurement of safe equipment, the use of the equipment, and the supervision and guidance of customers.
Identify the risks
To assess the related risks and mitigate them, the party maintaining an indoor playground or an activity park must have sufficient and correct information about the services provided to consumers. As a general rule, the users of indoor playgrounds and activity parks are children or adolescents, and they act in a fairly reckless manner.
When identifying the risks, pay attention to the following, for instance:
- Different types of activities have different kinds of risks
- All activities are not necessarily suitable for people of all ages
- Children may unintentionally or intentionally misuse equipment
- High risk activities require supervision and control
- Young children do not always understand instructions or know how to follow them
- Risks are not always obvious to the customers
Don’t forget to consider the fact that a person’s age may have an impact on the safety of the service. Such an age-related risk may occur if the strenuous physical nature of a service could cause health hazards to underaged children or young people, for example.
- Familiarise yourself with the applicable standards and guidelines already when planning your service. If necessary, request Tukes’ view on any unclear issues.
- Consider whether you have sufficient expertise to safely plan and create the service, or whether you should use professional manufacturers.
- Assess the risks involving customers in a comprehensive manner, taking into account all of the activities pertaining to the service.
- Think about the special characteristics and user groups of the service: for whom will the service mainly be provided? Is it suitable for users of all ages?
- Determine whether participation requires supervision and whether any restrictions on the use of the equipment need to be imposed.
Playground equipment standards can assist you in planning
There are no specific standards or any other applicable, comprehensive instructions on indoor playgrounds and activity parks. There are the requirements of the standard series on outdoor playgrounds, SFS-EN 1176, and the requirements of SFS-EN 1177. Part 1 of SFS-EN 1176 includes general safety requirements on playground equipment, and Part 10 (Fully enclosed play equipment) has been prepared with play equipment used indoors in mind. Compliance with these standards where applicable (especially the requirements on the shock absorptions of falling areas and the risks of head/neck getting stuck) will assist you in verifying the safety of your indoor park.
Specifying the safety requirements with children in mind is especially important if access to different areas is not restricted based on age, height or other characteristics, or if the customers are able to use the equipment without supervising personnel.
Verifying safety when combining several activities
In addition to the play equipment you see at playgrounds, many indoor playgrounds and activity parks include plenty of other activities, such as bouncy castles, trampolines or jumping pools, karting or different types of ball or racquet sports. When planninga service consisting of several functions, consider the special characteristics of the different areas from the very beginning. If you buy a ready-made bouncy castle, for example, you can verify the safety requirements by ensuring that you purchase a standardised product (SFS-EN 14960-1).
Familiarise yourself with the different standards and guidelines applicable to the planning of playgrounds and equipment. Standards that can be applied to ready-made products or activities you design yourself include play equipment standards and standards on ropes courses (SFS-EN 15567-1 and 2), parkour (SFS-EN 16899), skateparks (SFS-EN 14974) or the British trampoline park standard (PAS 5000:2017), among others. All of these and other applicable standards and guidelines can be applied to the verification of the safety of indoor parks.
Mere compliance with standards does not guarantee safety
Please note that even if an area or a piece of equipment meets the technical requirements of the applicable standard, it is not necessarily fit for an environment meant for young children. For example, the parkour standard is based on the assumption that the users are at least eight years of age. By applying the standard, it cannot be guaranteed that the park is suitable for children younger than the specified age, especially if the children will be using the park on their own without a supervisor or coach. Furthermore, toys meant for household use, such as Wendy houses, may be safe for children at home, but they will not necessarily withstand the large number of customers in an indoor park.