Safe Access to Playgrounds

Safe Access to Playgrounds

04th November 2014

One of our recent blog posts was on the subject of self-closing safety gates and while researching the subject, we discovered that these types of gates are becoming a popular choice for children’s playgrounds the length and breadth of the UK.  We learned that the UK government has plans to invest a massive £225 million towards building or upgrading the playgrounds all over the country.  The funding is passed to local authorities to ensure that the area’s playgrounds are all surrounded by fencing and gates that comply with BS EN 1176 or would pass an independent RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) inspection.  Although BS EN 1176 is not a legal obligation here in the UK, any local authority can demonstrate a duty of care through compliance with this standard, leaving the authority in a better position should an accident occur.

Every year, an average of 40,000 annual injuries happen in playgrounds that require a hospital visit for a child so making our playgrounds and parks safer for children is essential.  Today we’re taking a more detailed look at access to play areas across the UK.

EMERGENCY ACCESS – However safe the playground and play equipment is, an accident could still occur so access for emergency vehicles is a must.  An ambulance will require an opening of at least 2.15 metres and a hard standing area on which to park if possible in wet conditions.  If a vehicle is unable to access the playground, then a Trolley Bed (which is carried in all ambulances) may be required, but using one may cause delays in getting a child to hospital in cases involving a serious injury.

DISABLED ACCESS – The Disability Discrimination Act means that there is a legal obligation to provide for disabled people, including disabled children and parents.  This means that gates need to be suitable for wheelchairs to fit through and there should be hardstanding paths leading to all of the play equipment.

FENCES, GATES AND GRIDS – The main purpose of fencing, gates and grids around playgrounds is to keep children from straying outside the area into a hazardous location and to prevent dogs from entering. 

The gates should be positioned facing the direction from which children normally approach to prevent them from being tempted to climb the fence as a shortcut.  Looking for wear patterns in the surrounding grass is a good way of choosing where to position the gates.   However, it’s more important to make sure gates don’t face directly onto a hazard such as a road or open water.  The gates should ideally be placed well away from the play equipment to prevent risk of accident.

Gates should normally open outwards unless this causes a hazard to others such as opening onto the path of pedestrians or cyclists.  The main reason for this is that dogs find it easier to push in through a gate so this deters them from entering children’s play areas.

The use of self-closing playground gates is strongly recommended these days – not only is it safer, it’s more convenient for pushchair and wheelchair users.  However, care should be taken that the mechanism takes at least 5 seconds to close in order to avoid hitting users in the back.  There are gates available with internal self-closing mechanisms to reduce the risk of injury if children are tempted to “fiddle” with the gate.

Gates and grids should always have a minimum open width of 1 metre to ensure there is enough room for wheelchair and pushchair users to pass through easily.