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Nature Playgrounds: Safety Considerations

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Nature Playgrounds: Safety Considerations & Standards

While it is important to develop nature play spaces in safe surroundings, this should not be interpreted as having 'no risk'.

The Australian Standard on Playground Safety AS4685.1-6: 2014 encourages a balance between risk and safety, in order for playgrounds to provide the type of challenges on which children thrive. The Standards suggest that playgrounds should encourage development of motor skills and present users with manageable challenges to develop physical skills and to find and test their limits.

They note the primary aim of a playground should be to stimulate a child’s imagination, provide excitement and adventure in safe surroundings, and allow scope for children to develop their own ideas of play.

When designing a natural playspace, due consideration should be given to the existing environment, ease of supervision and developing a safe environment that provides healthy risk. Tracy Blaszkow from the Kidsafe WA Playground Advisory Service suggests the following safety-related factors be taken into account in the design of nature-based playgrounds:

  • Ensure the fall height is less than 1.8m (early childhood) or 3.0m (all other settings).
  • Ensure a minimum clearance of at least 2.5m around each item of equipment/natural play element.
  • Ensure there is impact absorbing material under all items of equipment/natural play elements over 0.6m in height.
  • Ensure the play area is free of head entrapment spaces.
  • Ensure your design allows for supervision in early childhood and school settings.
  • Ensure items such as boulders and logs don’t have sharp edges and are resting stable in the ground.

Relevant Standards: Relevant Australian Playground Standards

Australia’s new standard for playground equipment was released in April 2014 and is based on the European Standard. This change brings it in line with many other countries while taking into account specific Australian safety and design requirements relating to UV factors, moveable equipment and the height regulations for upper body equipment. The Standard provides playground owners and designers with greater flexibility and equipment choices.

AS 4685:2014 Playground Equipment and Surfacing

  • AS 4685.1: 2014  Pt 1  General safety requirements and test methods
  • AS 4685.2: 2014  Pt 2  Particular safety requirements & test methods for swings
  • AS 4685.3: 2014  Pt 3  Particular safety requirements & test methods for slides
  • AS 4685.4: 2014  Pt 4  Particular safety requirements & test methods for runways
  • AS 4685.5: 2014  Pt 5  Particular safety requirements & test methods for carousels
  • AS 4685.6: 2014  Pt 6  Particular safety requirements & test methods for rocking equipment

AS/NZS 4422: 1996

  • Playground Surfacing - Specifications, Requirements & Test Methods

AS/NZS 4486.1: 1997

  • Playgrounds & Playground Equipment (Part 1): Development, Installation, Inspection, Maintenance & Operation

AS 2155: 1982

  • Playgrounds: Guide to Siting, Installation & Maintenance of Equipment

AS 2555: 1982

  • Supervised Adventure Playgrounds - Guide to Establishment & Administration

AS 1428.3: 1992

  • Design for Access & Mobility - Requirements for Children & Adolescents with Physical Disabilities

AS/NZS ISO 31000: Risk Management - Principles & Guidelines

More info: To purchase a copy of the Australian Standards for Playgrounds visit:

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Education & Care Services National Regulations (2011)

(Under Sections 301 and 324 of the Education & Care Services National Law) 

Providers of centre-based child care services must ensure the outdoor spaces provided at its premises allow children to explore and experience the natural environment, for example through the use of natural features such as trees, sand and natural vegetation. 

NOTE:  A compliance direction may be issued for failure to comply with this regulation under Part 4.3 (pp. 126 + 129) Outdoor Space - Natural Environment.  For a full copy of these National regulations, click Here.

The Importance of Adult Supervision

Here's an interesting read on the importance of nature playground supervision by adults: What Almost Happend (web page article)

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