The manufacturers of playground equipment, the party maintaining the playground and the owner are responsible for the safety of playgrounds.
Tukes monitors municipal playgrounds and cooperates with other authorities to improve the safety of playgrounds at day care centres and schools. When the day care centres and schools are open, the municipal supervisory authorities are responsible for the safety of the playground.
Documents in order
The service provider, i.e. the owner of the playground, must draw up a safety document for the playground.
Housing companies do not need to draw up a safety document for a small play area used by the shareholders of one company. If the housing company’s playground is shared by many different companies, or if it is large in size or has many different kinds of playground equipment, the housing company must draw up a safety document for the playground.
Identify the risks
Use Tukes’ instructions and tools to identify the playground’s risks. Take especially the following issues into account in identifying the risks of a playground:
- Make sure that the gates and their locks have no defects and that children cannot reach the road.
- Ensure that the fencing around the area and the condition and material of the fence prevent the children from leaving the playground. If a fence is too low or otherwise in bad condition, children may be tempted to climb over it.
- Monitor the condition of the playground surfacing. For example, shock-absorbing sand may become dense and pile up, so you need to monitor its condition and maintain it or add sand, if necessary. If the playground surfacing is hard, it may cause the risk of injury.
- Make sure that there are no extra objects or other debris in the playground that may pose a risk to the children.
- Note that the equipment wears down, and broken playground equipment that has not been maintained causes a risk of incidents. Missing steps and protruding screws are dangerous on children’s playgrounds.
Providing information to consumers
Install a board with identifying information in a visible location at the playground; it should state the name and address of the playground, the contact information of the party maintaining the playground, and the emergency number. The contact information of the party maintaining the playground helps the parents to report any safety defects they have found in the playground, meaning that the defects can be corrected quickly.
Requirements on playground equipment
Playground equipment used in the yard at home, such as home trampolines, is designed for small-scale private use. Equipment intended for the yard at home cannot be purchased for public playgrounds.
In selecting, purchasing and maintaining playground equipment, take the following into account:
- The structures must be such that the children cannot get strangled, and their heads, bodies, feet or fingers cannot get stuck in anything.
- Playgrounds located near a body of water or a road with traffic must be fenced in. The yards and play areas of day care centres must always be fenced.
- The fence must be at least 120 cm high. The height must remain sufficient even in winter conditions. The fence must be sufficiently dense, and its structure must not tempt people to climb it. For example, there cannot be any support structures suitable as steps inside the fence. The lower edge of the fence should be at the height of approximately 10 cm from the ground to prevent children from crawling under the fence.
- In order to prevent falls, the playground equipment must have sufficiently high and sturdy railings, among other things.
- The surfacing must be made out of a shock-absorbing material, usually sand, or safety surfacing must be used to reduce injuries due to falling.
- There must be enough free space around the playground equipment, and there must not be any objects such as rocks or stumps with root spurs in their vicinity.
- Children must not be able to open the lock on the gate or the gate itself. More information on building fences and gates can be found in the guide ‘Päivähoidon turvallisuussuunnittelu’ (in Finnish) on the safety design of day care services, National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health (STAKES) and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
Maintenance and upkeep
Take the following measures, for example, to ensure sufficient maintenance and upkeep of the playground equipment and regular inspections of the equipment:
- Inspect and maintain the equipment and its parts in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions, following the minimum inspection and maintenance intervals indicated by the manufacturer.
- Draw up an inspection and maintenance plan for each playground and keep a record of the equipment inspections and maintenance. Even though the playground equipment was compliant with the requirements at the time of installation, it may become dangerous if it is not maintained or inspected often enough.
- For example, you should check the effects of winter weather and possible vandalism regularly. Correct possible defects.
- Also take care of the condition of the equipment during winter far as possible, if the equipment is available to the children. For example, the steps and platforms of jungle gyms must be cleared of snow and ice. You can also remove the playground equipment so that it is not in use, thereby preventing the risks of use during the winter.
- If you discover that the equipment is not safe, prevent children and other people from accessing it. This should be done in situations, such as when the installation of equipment has not been finished, the shock-absorbing surfacing has not been installed yet, or a risk causing a hazard has been discovered during maintenance or an inspection.
The European standards of the safety features of playground equipment have been compiled in the handbook No 143 drawn up by the Finnish Standards Association SFS, which can be ordered from the SFS. The handbook can be used by equipment manufacturers, parties maintaining playgrounds, such as municipalities and housing companies, as well as supervisory authorities, among other things.
Tukes acts as the supervisory authority concerning the customer safety of playgrounds. Other inspectors, such as consultants of the equipment and the importers, also visit playgrounds.
Inspections by outside experts are a good way to assess the safety of the playground through the eyes of an outsider. It is important to remember the upkeep and maintenance of the playground in addition to regular inspections by the personnel.