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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 (Kidsafe WA's BRIEF version: 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.

Kidsafe WA has compiled a much more comprehensive GUIDE TO PLAYGROUND STANDARDS ($66 - worth every dollar) which could prove helpful 'if' you wish to get it right for your local P&C Committee, local community development kids natural playground project, or even your own family backyard zipline. They also have published an interesting book on PLANTS FOR PLAYSPACES.

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. Check out the 'basic' list of the Australian Standards that encompass the design, building/installation, maintenance and operation of all Playground Equipment (this includes all natural playscapes & ALL backyard zipline modules and playground equipment).

Kidsafe WA also now conducts Nationally Accredited Training in playground inspections, from basic one-day playground safety visual checks, all the way up to the more advanced comprehensive Park/Playground Safety Audits:

* Visual Park/Playground Inspection Course (1-Day) $550

* Operational Park/Playground Inspection Course (2-Days) $1,100

* Comprehensive Park/Playground Inspection Course (2-Days) $1,650

Here is a copy of the Kidsafe WA Training Courses Information Booklet, an interesting read in itself.

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.

Kidsafe WA also provide Playground Consultation & Audit Services where their staff can perform a comprehensive safety and risk assessment of your Nature Playground area and all the modules.  Their accredited Kidsafe WA Playground Consultants can inspect your playground for compliance against the Australian Standards and provide a written report with prioritised recommendations. 

What About Prior to Construction? - A Review of Your Plans: They can also review your plans to give design advice, identify any potential hazards and ensure quality play options for children. Playground plans (including natural playscapes) are reviewed for compliance with current Australian Safety Standards and a written report is provided with recommendations. They also do 'speaking engagements' (local community project/workshops/conferences) for a relatively small fee: Information Sessions & Workshops

Outdoor Gear Australia has referred numerous clients and their enquiries to Kidsafe WA, given that they provide a high quality, comprehensive and local services right here in WA. That's a HIGH recommendation from us!

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]  Additional specific safety requirements & test methods for swings
  • AS 4685.3: 2014  [Pt 3]  Additional specific safety requirements & test methods for slides
  • AS 4685.4: 2014  [Pt 4]  Additional specific safety requirements & test methods for runways
  • AS 4685.5: 2014  [Pt 5]  Additional specific safety requirements & test methods for carousels
  • AS 4685.6: 2014  [Pt 6]  Additional specific safety requirements & test methods for rocking equipment

AS 4685.0: 2017 [Pt 0] Playground Equipment & Surfacing - Development, installation, inspection, maintenance & operation

The following Australian Standards may also prove interesting:

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 3533.4.2 - Amusement Rides & Devices

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

More info: To purchase a copy of any of the Australian Standards for Playgrounds visit:  www.standards.org.au


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Education & Child 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.

Finally: Even at Home - the Importance of Adult Supervision

Consider this, you have just built your kids their very own backyard zip line, a climbing wall on the side of your garage (or even a sea container on your property), together with some swinging tyres and a few low ropes challenge course modules between your backyard trees. What happens when your kids invite their friends to come over to your place for a 'playdate' ... who is now suddenly responsible for their safety?  It may be worth considering in your "risk management plan" to include your kids friends?  

Here are some interesting design/concept diagrams of a natural backyard playground that could be built in your backyard. If you would like a FREE copy of these concept diagram & construction plans (no charge) - simply email us to request your copy today: info@outdoor-gear.com.au   With our compliments, it's all part of the service!

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