Balancing safety and risk at the playground

TS children playground slide

New Zealand has a new playground equipment and surfacing standard. 

NZS 5828:2015 Playground equipment and surfacing promotes and encourages the provision and use of playgrounds that are well designed, constructed, and maintained, as well as innovative and challenging, while still offering children a degree of risk in a controlled environment. 

Chair of the committee that revised the standard, Barbara Lingard, says the committee decided it was important that New Zealand keep up with international standards that had been upgraded more than once since 2004. 

‘We reviewed and adopted the latest editions of the international standards that made up NZS 5828:2004 and adopted two additional parts. We also revised the additional recommendations and requirements for playground equipment and surfacing to meet needs that are specific to the New Zealand environment.’ 

Play is essential to the healthy development of children. Through independent or cooperative play, children are able to learn about themselves and their environment, while stimulating their creative, emotional, and physical development. Risk-taking, however, is also an essential feature of play provision and of all environments in which children legitimately spend time playing. Children need to learn to cope with risk and this may lead to bumps and bruises and occasionally even a broken limb. 

It is not the purpose of NZS 5828 to lessen the contribution that playground equipment makes to the child's development or play, which is meaningful from an educational point of view, Barbara says, but rather to manage the balance between the need to offer risk and the need to keep children safe from serious harm. 

‘It is very important for children to experience risk. What the committee wanted first and foremost, however, was to prevent accidents with a disabling or fatal consequence, for example head and neck entrapment, and secondly to lessen serious consequences caused by the occasional mishap that inevitably will occur in children's pursuit of expanding their level of competence, be it socially, intellectually or physically.’ 

Barbara says the new version of NZS 5828:2015 is easier to read and a more user-friendly document than the 2004 version. 

The standard is for anyone involved in the design, build, and manufacture of playground equipment. It applies to all playgrounds and playground equipment (excluding equipment for domestic purposes) including nature play or natural playgrounds that have been artificially created or enhanced. Refer to AS/NZS ISO 8124.6:2011  for information on playground equipment for domestic purposes. 

NZS 5828:2015 includes the identical implementation of international standards EN 1176 Parts 1–7 and 10–11:2008, EN 1177:2008, and an adoption of BS 7188:1998+A2:2009. 

Barbara represented Central Kids Kindergartens on the development committee. There were 13 committee members and some of the other organisations represented included Safekids Aotearoa, the Ministry of Education, the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand, McDonald’s New Zealand, and the Register of Play Inspectors International (RPII).

Buy NZS 5828:2015

Buy AS/NZS ISO 8124.6.2011

Published in consumer and occupational safety.