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CLERK'S BRIEFING NOTE

SAFETY INSPECTIONS OF CHILDREN'S PLAYGROUNDS

1. INTRODUCTION

As landowner of the Riverside Playground, the Playing Field & Recreation Ground Trust has a duty of care to its users. It meets this duty by passing responsibility for maintaining the grounds to the Parish Council and by having public liability insurance cover of £5,000,000. The Parish Council members undertake weekly visual inspections of the playground and arrangements are made for an annual professional inspection. The weekly written inspection reports are maintained for forty years. In 2011 the professional survey was carried out by ROSPA. ROSPA's inspections cover site safety, suitability and conditions of ancillary items, standard compliance, suitability and condition of equipment, dimensional compliance, suitability and condition of surfacing. The Parish Council has public liability insurance cover of £10,000,000.

As landowner, Sedlescombe Parish Council has a duty of care to its users at the East View Terrace Kickabout Area. It meets this duty by councillors undertaking a weekly inspection which is written and maintained for forty years. No professional annual inspection is undertaken because there are no items of play equipment apart from the two storm shooters.

 

2. NEGLIGENCE

According to ROSPA, the HSE and the Courts state that, where practical, risks should be reduced to "an acceptable level". Successful litigation depends upon being able to prove negligence on behalf of the operator. Just because someone has an accident it does not mean that the operator was negligent. It could, however, be deemed that the failure of the operator to reduce risk to an acceptable level is negligence. Some items of equipment, by the very nature of the activity that takes place on them, are risked as being medium or high risk. This may well be deemed an acceptable level. It should be appreciated that there is no such things as "no risk". There is a risk associated with everything we do and Low Risk is as low as you can get.

ROSPA recommends that site operators should carry a minimum of £5,000,000 public liability insurance for their own protection and that they undertake routine documented inspections in addition to the annual professional Report.

NB The above information under the title "Negligence" has been extracted from ROSPA's Safety Report 2011.

 

3. REASON FOR REVIEW OF SAFETY INSPECTIONS IN SEDLESCOMBE

Local concerns. Rother clerks have been consulting each other on what their councils have adopted. This has been started by the new clerk to Icklesham Parish Council who has a District Council background and has been responsible for safety inspections of housing association playgrounds where there is a lot of use. He has suggested that, in addition to the annual engineer's check, not only weekly safety inspections should be undertaken but also quarterly checks by a qualified person similar to the one doing the annual inspections.

Previous action. A few years ago, Sedlescombe Parish Council did pay for quarterly professional inspections but decided that the amount of use of the playground did not justify continuing this procedure. Councillors are not expected to undertake the work of a professional engineer but simply to carry out a visual check of the equipment to highlight any problems.

Training courses. ROSPA and others can supply training courses for volunteers who undertake playground inspections. Councillors may wish to consider whether these should be arranged for councillors.

 

4. ADDITIONAL INSPECTIONS

Water safety. ROSPA recommends as follows:

"Where there is open water within easy walking distance of the play area, it is recommended that a water safety report be commissioned (ROSPA can undertake this)."

Tree safety. ROSPA recommends as follows:

"Where there are trees within falling distance of the play area, it is recommended that a report on the integrity of the tree is obtained from a competent arboricultural expert."

 

P J Raymond
Clerk/RFO, Sedlescombe Parish Council
01424 870508
sedlescombe@freezone.co.uk
August 2011