Minimising Playground Accidents


17 March 2006

Playgrounds bring joy and fun to many children, but they unfortunately also come with the risk of injury, and playground accidents continue to be a concern in New Zealand.

Care must be taken by those responsible for playgrounds to identify and eliminate potential playground hazards. Designing and maintaining a playground in accordance with the Standard NZS 5828:2004 Playground equipment and surfacing, will help prevent the risk of injury. The Standard promotes playgrounds that are safe, innovative, well designed and well maintained.

Since the Standard was published in 2004, Standards New Zealand has received numerous requests for more information on how to interpret and implement the Standard. The Standard itself is very technical, and targeted towards manufacturers and designers. Playground owners and operators – including schools, early childhood education services, holiday parks and local councils – need more guidance.

Two new Handbooks will soon be available to make it easier to comply with the Standard. They provide clear guidance for safety requirements, test methods, maintenance and operational procedures within the Standard.

“The new playground Standard has been well received and accepted by the community, but understanding the Standard is the key to its full implementation,” says Clive Dodd of Consulting Co-ordination Pty Ltd, and chair of the committee that developed the Standard. “The new Handbooks will give playground owners and operators a clear understanding of their responsibilities in relation to the Standard and how they might achieve compliance.”

Playground equipment that is designed, installed and maintained in accordance with the Standard should help to reduce playground injuries. However, it is important to note that this will not automatically create a safe playground or remove the need for appropriate levels of child supervision during play.

Key information included in the Handbooks

  • Key playground safety information presented in everyday terms, including examples, recommendations and commentaries as guidance.
  • Inspection checklists based on a risk management framework, to identify and address potential hazards and playground risk and assist in establishing inspection and maintenance processes.
  • A section describing the responsibilities and obligations that apply to organisations or individuals undertaking key roles at different stages of playground design and operation.
  • Note that the Handbooks are not intended for use as a design or installation guide or manual.

Handbook 1

SNZ HB 5828.1:2006 General playground equipment and surfacing Handbook

This Handbook is a guide for owners and operators of publicly accessible playground facilities (both indoor and outdoor). It aims to improve playground safety, by achieving compliance with the Standard NZS 5828:2004. The Handbook is intended for use in conjunction with NZS 5828:2004.

The aim of the Handbook is to help playground owners and operators to significantly reduce playground injury rates among children.  The handbook is likely to be useful to all people and organisations running or managing private and public indoor and outdoor playgrounds, such as local authorities, schools, holiday parks, and other businesses with play equipment (e.g. garden centres).

“This Handbook contains information that is relevant to playground owners and operators in all sectors so there is one source of interpretation and information, developed with the collaborative efforts of ACC, Local Government New Zealand, the New Zealand Recreation Association and the Department of Building and Housing,” says Clive Dodd.

Handbook 2

SNZ HB 5828.2:2006 Supervised early childhood facilities – Playground equipment and surfacing handbook

This Handbook describes recommended practice in playground management for early childhood education services. Licensed early childhood centres are required by the Education (Early Childhood Centres) Regulations 1998 to comply with all applicable Standards.

The Handbook will enable those responsible for the use, maintenance and management of playground equipment across early childhood education centres to understand the Standard and to develop a playground management plan to achieve compliance with NZS 5828:2004. The development of the Handbook is sponsored by the Ministry of Education and is intended for use in conjunction with NZS 5828:2004.

“There is some confusion in the early childhood sector regarding what is acceptable for children in an outdoor learning environment”, says Barbara Lingard of the Central North Island Kindergarten Association and member of the playground Standard committee. “This Handbook provides a clear interpretation of the Standard, clear expectations regarding requirements for quality outdoor play environments and a consistent guide for early childhood facilities throughout New Zealand.”