Playground injury prompts safety warning

27 March 2023

Those responsible for playgrounds are being urged to conduct risk assessments following a serious injury in the Adelaide Hills.

A six-year-old girl sustained serious head injuries when she fell from a bird’s nest-style swing at a playground in February.

While the circumstances and findings of this incident are not finalised, this alerts serves as a prompt to those responsible for playgrounds to ensure adequate risk assessments are conducted.

Falls are the most common cause of injury at playgrounds. Although most playground injuries are minor scratches or bruises, playground incidents can also result in serious fractures, lacerations, and head injuries.

A bird’s nest-style swing similar to the one in the recent Adelaide Hills incident.

SafeWork SA is reminding everyone who is responsible for playgrounds to assess them to ensure:

  • equipment is installed according to manufacturer’s specifications
  • inspection regimes are implemented and conducted by a competent person
  • a risk assessment is conducted, including prior to purchasing equipment
  • fall impact protection is adequate such as ensuring loose fill is at the appropriate depth
  • play equipment does not have screws or bolts protruding from it.

Between November 2021 and July 2022, SafeWork SA undertook a Nature Play and Playground Proactive Compliance Campaign.

The campaign involved 49 playground audits resulting in 64 non-compliance notices.

The most common areas of non-compliance that resulted in an improvement notice were:

  • inadequate maintenance of installed play equipment
  • lack of hazard identification
  • inadequate loose fill
  • lack of annual inspections
  • nil evidence of structural integrity.

SafeWork SA Acting Executive Director Glenn Farrell said it is foreseeable that children can be seriously injured on playgrounds if risks in the playground environment are not adequately controlled.

‘Anyone responsible for playgrounds need to undertake an adequate risk assessment and implement higher order control measures or a combination of control measures,’ he said.

‘These control measures should include appropriate play equipment selection for the age of the children, appropriate placement, adequate inspection and maintenance by competent persons, regular maintenance, and adequate loose fill surfacing.’

Those responsible for playgrounds are encouraged to conduct inspections of their play equipment to identify existing or new hazards and ensure they are appropriately managed.

The audit tool found at the end of the Nature Play and Playground Proactive Compliance Project 2021 Project Closure Report is a valuable resource for conducting these audits.

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