7 steps Bodies Corporate and HOAs should take to ensure play areas are safe
Many new estates and sectional title complexes offer children’s playgrounds now as an added attraction and convenience for parents of young children.
The fast-approaching winter school holidays again highlight the need for the home owners’ association (HOA) directors or body corporate trustees to check that the equipment and surroundings in their play area are really as safe as they think – or risk facing third-party injury claims against their insurance.
Gerhard Kotzé, MD of the RealNet estate agency group, says that statistics show that a considerable proportion of children’s injuries every year – including concussions, dislocations, fractures, internal injuries and even amputations – result from playing on faulty jungle gyms, slides, swings, tree houses and rope ladders.
Luckily there is much that can be done to prevent these disasters; the following checklist will make the task easier:
- Make sure that possible falls end in a soft landing by maintaining a shock absorbent groundcover. As a guideline, keep in mind that a 15cm layer of wood chips, mulch or shredded rubber is needed to offer protection for equipment 2m high.
- Make sure protective surfaces extend at least 2m in all directions from stationary playground equipment and four times the height of the suspending bar around swings.
- No ropes, nets or pet leashes that could be a potential strangulation hazard should be attached to the equipment.
- Sand down any sharp edges or protrusions and remove and replace any open s-hooks and protruding bolts.
- Check that openings in guardrails and between ladder rungs pose no hazard. Spaces should be less than 10cm or more than 25cm so that little feet (and heads) will not get stuck.
- Make sure there is adequate spacing between swings. Suspended swings should be at least 20cm apart. The distance between a swing and the support frame and between the ground and underside of the swing seat should also be at least 20cm.
- Swing seats should be made of a soft material and safely secured, and slide surfaces should not pose a burning hazard in hot weather.
It is also important to remind parents and childminders to ensure that older children are taught to obey safety rules, such as not walking in front of moving swings, and that younger children are preferably fully-supervised at all times while using the playground equipment.