Regularly inspecting both the equipment and the grounds of a playground installation ensures it remains a safe place for children to play and have fun. It helps to plan and follow a timetable of regular playground inspections, which then results in any required maintenance work or preventative actions being detected and implemented as soon as possible.
In an educational setting, playgrounds should be inspected by a responsible member of staff on a daily basis, or before less regular use, to ensure that the playing space remains safe. However, a more detailed, scheduled, regular maintenance inspection should always take place. This can be easily set up and carried out in-house by your establishment and then any advice sought regarding any maintenance work required.
The Department for National Heritage and the Welsh Office, the British Standards Institute, the Health and Safety Executive, Insurers and RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) all recommend that maintenance inspections are completed on a regular basis, although there is no specific legal responsibility to provide inspection and maintenance programmes.
However, School and Playground Managers have a legal and moral responsibility of care to children using the site – and at the same time, they need to meet the expectations of parents. Inspections should adhere to EN1176, Part 7.
Inspections should always focus on the whole of the play space – not just the equipment. Pathways, fences, tables, seats and gates etc. all need to be checked over. Surfacing should always be carefully checked for vandalism, wear and tear and defects. Economic impact absorbency tests are available as part of the annual inspection if required. RoSPA offers advice and information on playground inspections, you can read all of this on their website.
A clear systematic playground inspection plan is recommended involving 3 levels of inspection. Inspection findings must be clearly and systematically recorded and reports and maintenance logs kept safely by the establishment.
Schoolscapes provide you with all the information and documents that you need to conduct weekly and quarterly inspection, however, for insurance purposes, we would advise that an annual inspection is carried out by a qualified person, who is independent of the play equipment provider, designer, manufacturer or installer. Being independent ensures you get the correct advice, full risk assessment, and avoid people trying to sell additional services.
Schoolscapes prides itself on providing equipment which requires minimum maintenance, however if you do not have the facilities to carry out your own maintenance, we would advise that you have an independent inspection annually, this report will show you what if any maintenance is required, what may be covered under warranty and what is a routine operation. This inspection is very much like a playground version of a car MOT and will provide Schoolscapes with the information to provide an itemised quote for any repairs or maintenance required.
This route allows you to control when you spend on maintenance, you also do not pay for services which are not required or parts under warranty, more importantly, it gives you the peace of mind that you are ensuring safe operations within your school or park.
We would advise the use of either ROSPA or the Play Inspection Company to undertake your annual inspections.
1 The Routine Visual Inspection
When: A regular inspection, daily or weekly. Inspection frequency will vary with the age of the equipment, the individual site and the degree of use. It is good practice for teachers and other educators to also inspect their equipment before each session in which the equipment will be used. New equipment may need daily inspections as there is a wearing in period and new equipment is very popular so receives increased usage.
Who: May be carried out by the playground manager or staff and findings should be systematically recorded. At Schoolscapes, we provide our customers with an inspection checklist – RoSPA can also provide further checklists if ever needed.
Focus: Checking the play equipment’s basic condition, specifically looking to detect faults from recent vandalism.
Checklist: Download our daily visual inspection checklist.
2 The Operational Inspection
When: A planned routine inspection, monthly or quarterly.
Who: May be carried out by the playground manager or staff and findings should be recorded systematically.
Focus: Looks more closely at the equipment, essentially to detect any signs of vandalism and certain types of minor wear and tear. It should form a good hands-on check. For further, more detailed information consult RoSPA’s Routine Inspection of Playgrounds document.
Checklist: Download our weekly to monthly inspection checklist.
Checklist: Download our 3-6 monthly inspection checklist.
3 The Annual Inspection
When: Planned annual inspection.
Who: Should be carried out by a specialist, independent playground inspector. These can be conducted by a range of organisations including commercial companies, insurance companies, and safety organisations. It is important to ensure that their inspections are acceptable to insurance companies and a suitable professional indemnity of at least £5 million is carried. Where inspections are carried out by commercial companies it is helpful to have an independent random check by an independent organisation such as RoSPA.
Focus: Looks for any signs of vandalism, minor and major wear, any longer-term structural problems, changes in Standard Compliance, risk assessment and design practice etc. Importantly, annual inspections can identify any maintenance work that falls within any existing warranty periods.
Checklist: Playground Inspector will provide a detailed report.
After we have completed your new play area, it will be checked and signed off by the installations team. Before you allow children to use the equipment it is important that it is inspected by an adult, and a risk assessment is completed of the play area.
The easiest way to check the equipment is to use it, this will help you to establish risks or challenges that you need to document or communicate to the children before use. Showing children how to use new equipment is important, we would advise that in the initial stages you monitor its use, give instruction on technique and allow access to classes or smaller groups.
Alternatively, if you would like your play area independently inspected and risk assessed then this can be provided through ROSPA or the Play Inspection Company for a fee.
Training for Playground Inspections
It is recommended that in-house staff carrying out the regular inspections should have undertaken some basic training in playground inspections. Training courses are available from RoSPA.
If maintenance work such as repairs and replacement parts are required, a recording system should clearly indicate and log any maintenance actions and repairs required and when they have been completed. Whenever possible the manufacturer’s original parts should be used.
Schoolscapes provides all our customers with details of inspection and maintenance requirements. It is a good idea to keep a record of the age of each piece of equipment installed at a setting and schedule an inspection before the expiry of any warranties and guarantees. Guarantees will vary depending on the type of product and its component parts. You can view our guarantees here on our website.
Alternatively, you can download them to keep and print here.