Playground inspection is operator’s responsibility

17. July 2019

Building sandcastles, climbing, running, outgrowing themselves – a playground offers children a world to try out. And we adults should ensure that this world offers safety, but also challenges and a certain, calculable risk. Thoughtful planning and design are essential, but regular playground inspections are just as important! No child should play on neglected playgrounds. Negligent operators expose children to dangers. No one wants that. 

Proper inspection, maintenance and repair is, therefore, the operator’s responsibility and reduces the risk of dangerous accidents!

Table of contents

Who is responsible for playground inspection?

Glass splinters in the fall protection zones, rotten wooden structures or trap points pose a significant risk of injury to playing children. To prevent this from happening, DIN EN 1176-7 stipulates in the general safety requirements that the manufacturer must provide information on maintenance and servicing. To this end, DIN EN 1176-7 regulates maintenance and operation as well as further details on the three prescribed types of inspection. 

The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that the delivered play equipment is safe and can be safely installed. After installation, the responsibility for maintaining safe playground equipment lies with the operator within the scope of his duty to ensure road safety.

The operator can delegate inspections, e.g. with a service instruction. Nevertheless, the operator has to make sure that the assigned personnel has the necessary expertise. This can be proven, e.g. by a valid certificate as qualified playground inspector DIN 79161.

What operators must observe in the event of damage

  • A damaged and thus dangerous piece of equipment must be immediately secured against use. e.g. remove swing seats.
  • Repairs must be carried out in an appropriately timely manner, depending on the danger they pose.
  • The dismantling of individual playground elements should only take place after consultation with the manufacturer or an expert. This avoids new safety risks, e.g. by changing distances or heights.

Operators who do not sufficiently fulfil their maintenance obligation risk not only the health of the users but also a loss of function from the playground equipment.

What tasks must a playground inspection fulfill?

Every piece of playground equipment wears out over time. Be it through playing, the weather or even through vandalism. Therefore, inspections, maintenance, repair measures and care should be part of everyday life for every playground operator. Safety management according to the European standard DIN EN 1176-7 is necessary. 

Playground inspection – the inspection

 The inspection serves to determine and assess the actual condition of the playground. DIN EN 1176-7 specifies exactly which inspections have to be carried out regularly. 

This includes the following playground inspections:

  • routine visual inspection
  • operational inspection
  • annual main inspection

How often must playground inspections be carried out?

According to DIN EN 1176, a playground should be inspected at the following intervals:

  • daily: visual inspection on playgrounds in social hotspots (visual inspection).
  • once per week: inspection of the playground equipment for damage or conspicuousness by the operator or an expert (visual inspection)
  • every 1 to 3 months: playground inspection for equipment wear. Attention! Observe the manufacturer’s maintenance and care instructions (operational inspection)
  • once per year: thorough check of stability, stability and repairs carried out by an expert to ensure operational safety (main inspection)

The playground inspection – care, maintenance and upkeep

If visual inspections or other inspections reveal a need for action, then appropriate maintenance work must be planned. The aim here is to restore safety and maintain the playground in the long term. This includes cleaning, re-greasing or re-fastening components, and preventive replacement of elements before they are too worn out – for swing chains, the wear limit is approximately 30 % of the chain cross-section. 

During the main annual inspection, the stability and sturdiness of the playground are also checked. We recommend that qualified playground inspectors, according to DIN 79161 be commissioned to carry out the inspection. These experts also check any repairs or modifications carried out by the operator. 

By the way: You can read more about the water quality of a water playground here.

A playground inspection has to be learned – the qualified “playground inspector”.

The organisation of visual inspections and functional checks, as well as the main inspection, are the responsibility of the operator. For the main inspection, another expert should be entrusted in the sense of the 4-eyes principle. To be able to carry out such a playground inspection professionally, operators or their representatives need the necessary expertise. Only in this way can they correctly recognise, assess and eliminate sources of danger. In Germany, DIN 79161 defines a uniform quality standard for training and playground inspections. In a seminar to become a qualified playground inspector, for example, at TÜV Süd, this specific knowledge can be learned. Or one can make use of the corresponding services of the playground manufacturers. We at eibe, for example, offer our customers the option of using our eibe premium service, which provides operators with the best possible support in their playground inspection and maintenance duties. 

By the way: poisonous plants on the playground can also be a source of danger. You can find out which plants are particularly poisonous here.

Conclusion – Playground inspections are obligatory 

Playground inspections do not protect against all dangers, but they are the basis for proving the obligation to ensure the safety of playground equipment. 

Even the best playground inspection cannot exclude a residual risk. This is because external factors sometimes create dangers that playground operators cannot influence. Parents are often responsible for such risks. Children who wear bicycle helmets on the playground run the risk of strangulation with the helmet strap in the worst case. Cords or drawstrings in the neck area also pose a safety risk. Another problem is overly cautious parents who, for example, lift children onto playground equipment that they cannot climb on their own. These “barriers” are designed to allow only children who can climb them to access the playground equipment. All others lack the skills to play safely on the equipment.

You can read more about playground safety in our blog articles “Safety of bicycle helmets” and “Promoting self-awareness in children”.

Also interesting: Did you know that a playground can be an important aspect of city marketing? Read more about it here. 

Image: fatihhoca / Signature Collection / istockphoto.com

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