During the summer, children spend much time on playgrounds. Playground equipment such as swings, slides, seesaws and - for the little ones - the sandbox, makes them engage in healthy outdoor physical activity and not just be occupied with their computer games.
Playground equipment can be defined as an element or structure in the public space designed for children to play with. Nowadays, playground equipment can be found not only on playgrounds, but also in residential areas, recreational areas, around hotels, cafés and restaurants etc. A new development is the interactive play equipment, which combines the positive elements of gaming (reaching levels, suspense) with active outdoor play.
Regulations for playground equipment and the operation of playgrounds
Playground equipment must meet extensive safety requirements. These apply to the device itself, but also to the surfacing underneath. For instance, for playground equipment where the child can fall from a height (1 to 3 m), the surfacing must be in fall-absorbing material, such as wood chips, sand or gravel.
In Belgium, the regulatory requirements for playground equipment and for the operation of playgrounds are laid down in two Royal Decrees of 28 March 2001. These regulations also refer to the application of European standards on playground equipment as a possible means to meet these requirements. Nevertheless, the operator of a playground always remains responsible for the safety and maintenance of the facilities and grounds. This means that he has to perform a risk assessment, elaborate preventive measures and regularly inspect and maintain the playground equipment.
Standards for playground equipment and surfacing
The European standards series EN 1176 deals with the safety of playground equipment. In part 1, the general safety requirements for playground equipment and surfacing are treated, including hazards such as entrapment, injury due to protruding parts etc. Other parts cover specific playground equipment such as slides, cableways, carousels and spatial network. Section 7 provides guidance on installation, inspection, maintenance and operation of playground equipment.
The standard EN 1177 describes a method for determining the impact attenuation of playground surfacing. Its purpose is to avoid serious falling injuries.
You can find all these standards in our NBN Catalogue.
Playing is an up-and-down experience
This summer too, thanks to all these regulations and standards and the corresponding checks, you can confidently bring your child or grandchild to the playground. Nevertheless, accidents can never be ruled out. Playing is after all a learning process of trial and error. It all comes down to precautions, thoughtful design and regular inspections of the equipment, to keep the risks limited. Regulations and standards can help achieve this goal.