The law and minimum standard requirements are not being implemented and the personnel in charge of playgrounds are most often not aware of the legal ramifications should a child become injured in their playground, says Jeremy Stewart of Seamless Flooring, who is also the Chairman of SASPI (South African Sports and Play Industry).

As professionals in the built environment, part of our legal and moral responsibility is to ensure that children play on play structures where the flooring installed offers significant protection to a falling child. The South African National Standards (SANS) 51176 –1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11 and 51177 of 2010 (referred to as the act) is available from the SABS website. This act addresses the safety requirements for play structures and safety flooring.

The importance of impact attenuating surfacing

Broadly speaking, this act states that all private or public playgrounds, regardless of whether there is supervision, shall have impact attenuating surfacing over the entire impact area beneath all playground equipment where there is a free fall height of more than 600mm from the lowest point a child can stand on. Surfaces that do not comply with the act are grass, artificial grass with or without sand and/or rubber infill (unless a rubber shock pad is installed underneath), cement / clay pavers, tar surfacing, plain natural surfaces and concrete slabs.

Standards are generally considered the minimum standard of care. This standard of care is imposed by the new “Duty of Care” application of the law. The aim of the standards is to reduce the severity of accidents and deaths. Implementation of playground safety standards internationally has proven to reduce accidents and deaths by as much as 80%. This is a triumph which cannot be ignored and South Africa cannot continue to deny or ignore the reality of serious injuries and deaths on playgrounds in our country.