The importance of proper play equipment safety checks

January 2021, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets Council was sentenced after a girl of 5 died when playground equipment collapsed on top of her at Mile End Park.

The fatal accident occurred when play equipment gave way after the young girl was swinging on a rope that was attached to a wooden post, heard Westminster Magistrates’ Court. The post snapped at its base, causing the wooden structure to collapse on top of her and she sadly sustained fatal head injuries.

London Borough of Tower Hamlets Council pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3.1 of the Health and Safety at Work Etc. Act 1974. They were fined £330,000 and ordered to pay costs of £6,204 after they failed to ensure that an annual playground safety check was carried out.

The tragic accident mentioned above highlights the dangers of play equipment if it is not correctly maintained. This is particularly important in for clubs and pubs with outdoor play areas, where the vast majority have a type of play equipment that requires maintenance.

Play equipment is, of course, a vital part of a child’s upbringing and when it is correctly maintained and suitably supervised it should be very safe to use. This therefore highlights the importance of a detailed, robust maintenance programme for such equipment. This would not only make the equipment and environment safer, but would also be a money saving exercise in the long run as you should be able to spot potentially costly issues with the equipment before they require an expensive repair or full replacement.

The manufacturers or installers of the equipment often provide instructions and recommendations on how to properly care for and maintain the equipment and this should be followed as closely as possible. If you do not follow the instructions and recommendations then you would need to be able to justify why, which is often hard to do.

Generally speaking there are two types of inspections to consider:

  • Low Frequency Inspections – This type of inspection is more in-depth and is often carried out annually or six-monthly, depending on the equipment and your risk assessment. They tend to be carried out by an external company who specialises in such inspections and have a specific level of competency to be able to carry out this type of work. The level and type of competency required would of course depend on the type of equipment being inspected. Upon completion the club or bar should receive a documented report detailing whether the equipment is safe to use and, if not, what repairs are required.
  • High Frequency Inspections – This type of inspection tends to be more of a visual inspection of the equipment and is more often than not carried out by a school employee. The exact frequency would again depend on the type of equipment and your risk assessment, however they are typically carried out weekly. The inspections should be consistent and ideally follow a set checklist to ensure that all the requirements are being met each time it is carried out. As part of the high frequency inspections you should ensure that there is a method in place to allow employees to report any issues with the equipment to the relevant person, and that they have the ability to prohibit use on the equipment when they see fit to do so. It is important that these inspections are documented in order to evidence that both the school and the employee are fulfilling their responsibilities.

It’s important that the club or pub ensures that the employee/s being tasked with the high frequency inspections are competent to do so and that they continue to provide suitable information, instruction and training. 

Should you require further information or a template for carrying out such inspections on play equipment, please contact your broker. NDML’s experts will be happy to assist, email us here:

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