Friday, 18 June 2010

Playground safety

My friend's little boy had a nasty accident this morning, he fell off a piece of play equipment in the school playground, badly bruising and grazing his head and face on the hard tarmac surface. He didn't fall far, but it was enough to really hurt him and cause him distress.

My friend, when she saw how her son's face had bruised and swollen up over the day, went straight to see the headmaster, expecting some form of sympathy and an agreement to look into moving the equipment to the grassy area.

She was astonished: he was completely unsympathetic. He refused to move the equipment, and he said if everyone complained about accidents the children wouldn't have any equipment to play on! After much discussion he has agreed to discuss the matter at the next teachers' meeting.

I am not someone who complains about every little incident and demand health and safety reviews and compensation. But I feel that a point-blank refusal to move the equipment is wrong. This equipment is quite clearly in the wrong place. Several other play items are scattered around the school grounds, there is a trim trail which is situated on a soft surface (part rubber, part grass), there are some tall items for the children to run around on the grass field, and there is this piece on the playground. I understand the desire to spread equipment around the school grounds, but I think the school is simply trying to reduce costs, because obviously, to dig up part of the playground and refill it with sand/bark will cost them money.

The health and safety executive do not have clear guidance on playground safety (that I can find): according to their site, they say we should be "protecting children from harm while allowing them the freedom to develop independence and risk awareness". This sentiment I agree with completely.

A play surface manufacturer has the following information on their site: "As a general rule, if the existing surface is tarmac or concrete, safer surfacing should be installed beneath all play equipment regardless of the free height of fall, for certain play areas with static, low level equipment this may not apply".

Unfortunately, it might take further accidents (reported to the school) before this issue is dealt with properly.

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