The following are some of the points to be considered with regard to design:
- Good separation of age groups.
- Clear separation of catering and viewing areas from the main play space and provision of a slow exit from the play area into these areas.
- If the area is part of another structure is there a secure method of restricting access when the area is not in use?
- Are there “blind spots” where children cannot be seen from the supervision points?
- Does the reception area give a good view of the play frame?
- Are there measures to prevent access to “unauthorised” areas such as roof or void spaces of the play frame, electrical, heating, ventilation and lighting equipment, and any other potentially hazardous location?
- Can children be easily kept out of the “cooking” area where catering is provided and is there a safe entrance/exit from there for staff?
- Is furniture located not to obstruct access and emergency exits?
- Maximum height restrictions are in place and clearly identifiable.
- All areas are easily accessible for cleaning and maintenance.
- Provision of outside lighting.
- Doors should always have re-enforced glass vision panels and door closers where appropriate.
- Doors should not open directly into the play space or where they could cause a hazard. There should be no foot or finger entrapments in doors.Hinge protectors.
- Handles should be rounded and, where to be used by children, should be at a height of 610mm.
- Toilet and baby changing facilities should be either housed within the facility or be close at hand. Soap and hand drying facilities should be provided in accordance with BS 6465-1. Care should be taken with hot water temperatures for hand washing
(Health and Safety at Work Act 1974). Toilets should be of a size suitable for the users of the facility. Any door locks should be “safe locks” capable of being operated from both sides. There should be no finger or foot entrapments in the
- Good baby changing facilities with nappy disposal opportunities should be provided. Any nappy containers should be emptied regularly.
- Sufficient space should be provided for safe storage of items such as buggies that may clutter and obstruct access and exit routes.
- Shoes should not be worn in the play space and sufficient storage should be provided possibly at reception for control and security.
- Socks must be worn within the play facility to reduce the spread of foot diseases (no bare feet).
The following should be born in mind:
- Emergency exits should lead to a safe area and doors should be alarmed or have a flashing light to indicate and warn staff of unauthorized use. There should be no likelihood of any such emergency exit being accidentally blocked.
- The area both sides of the door should have a suitable surface to be walked on by children not wearing shoes. (Children may not have time to retrieve shoes in an emergency).
- Good sight lines into the play area are essential and staff should be positioned to see all area.
- Control measures should be implemented to ensure maximum numbers are not exceeded and that unauthorized persons are denied access. (Child Protection Policy).
The range of impairments is vast and can vary for those children attending play facilities. Before allowing use of the facility it is recommended that managers carry out a full risk assessment to ascertain the types of special needs that can be incorporated
and carry out appropriate measures.
Good management and supervision is the key to a successful and safe play area and staff training is essential.
Main points for staff are:
- All staff should be aware of emergency evacuation procedures and how to deal with an injured or comatose child. Contact details for the emergency services should be at hand. Safe hand over of children to adult carers after evacuation child protection
- There should always be sufficient staff to adequately supervise the numbers on the play structure and to carry out emergency evacuation procedures. Staff should be positioned at good vantage points to obtain maximum supervision. At more adventurous
areas and multi-use equipment a higher level of supervision may be necessary.
- The maximum user numbers must not be exceeded.
- Children should only be allowed in the space designated for their own age/height.
- Carers should not be allowed into play areas unless stated in procedures to allow access to play areas at special sessions (parent and toddler sessions etc).
- Where play becomes excessively boisterous staff should intervene to protect the health and safety of all the children.
- Staff should regularly practice emergency evacuation drills with children from the play area (see Parties).
- Are there net cutting tools available to allow cutting of netting for emergency access (such knives should be secured against unauthorised access?
- Do all staff know where the accident book is kept and how to fill it in?
- Are staff aware of cleanliness regimes and how to clean blood and body fluid spills? Children who are bleeding (however little) should be removed from the area until any blood flow has been treated and ceased.
- Emergency exits and routes to them must be kept clear at all times.
- Slides are often the quickest method of exit in an emergency from upper levels of play but where slides exit into ball pools (pre 2008 standard) or other such areas these areas may present obstacles and cause congestion. Good procedures and control
measures are required.
- Temperatures within the play facility should be acceptable and maintained (heat rises and upper play levels should be checked regularly).
- Children should remove shoes before playing on the play equipment (if equipment designs requires) but socks must be worn to reduce possible infection of foot diseases (no bare feet). Children should also wear appropriate clothing.
- No food or drinks should be taken into the play space.
- Pre-opening: Inspection to look for signs of damage, vandalism etc.
- In busy times more than one such inspection may be necessary. Also new units tend to get very heavy initial usage and extra checks are necessary.
- A more detailed inspection to check security of all items.
- An Independent Annual Inspection
Where inspections indicate the need for maintenance the work identified should be carried out as soon as possible. All work identified as being necessary and details of remedial action. In addition a programme for safety testing procedures for the
following should be drawn up:
- All fixed and portable electrical equipment and installations.
- All gas equipment (included any bottled gas).
- All lifting equipment.
- All fire fighting equipment and fire and smoke detection equipment.
- The area should be kept clean at all times. This includes areas not generally accessible to users. All cleaning materials must be non hazardous. The play equipment supplier should be consulted on suitable cleaning agents.
- There should be clear procedures in place (and all staff should be aware of them) for immediate cleaning and disinfecting in the event of urination, defecation, blood spillage or vomiting.
- Invariably accidents will happen and it is important that all members of staff are fully trained to react and deal with these. At all times the carer should be kept informed of all actions taken.