Ian Richardson

14 November 2017

Making safety child’s play

Cast your mind back to yesteryear, when childhood entertainment comprised a visit to the local playground, whereupon you were confronted by all manner of structures, lending themselves to imaginative adventures.

The element of risk was, and still is, far removed from the consciousness of most children. Yet ask those involved in the design of such recreational facilities, and they will attest to the virtues of ‘good risk’ and the associated challenges of managing it in a way that is both constructive and important in a child’s development.

So can risk be a good thing? A well designed playground offers an exciting and challenging environment in which children can develop their abilities; navigating swings, slides, roundabouts, climbing frames and other equipment can teach important problem-solving skills and help to develop physical strength, coordination and balance.

Naturally, this will involve some risk-taking, and some bumps and bruises are to be expected during adventurous play. However, it is the role of manufacturers of playground equipment, and organizations that manage public play areas, to work together to prevent serious accidents and reduce the risk of permanent injury by following good practice.

One suite of standards developed to assist is that of BS EN 1176 Playground equipment and surfacing. Providing EU harmonised safety benchmarks, their objective is to allow as many exciting play opportunities as possible, with as much safety as necessary.

The BS EN 1176 series sets out good practice in the design, manufacture, installation and maintenance of playground equipment in public spaces, offering guidance on crucial elements such as structural strength, protection against falling, laceration and entrapment. Additional guidance to playground operators on equipment installation, inspections and maintenance, and providing clear information to consumers (site maintenance, emergency) is also covered.

If the play area used by your child complies with the standards, you can rest assured that judgements, based on Europe-wide expertise, have been carried out, to balance the risk of injury with the benefits of exciting play opportunities.

Furthermore, they act as a checklist to ensure that organizations don’t forget any key safety points. If an accident happens, and the equipment involved carries a label stating that it meets the standard, the insurers and courts should be satisfied that the necessary measures have been taken to set risks at the appropriate level to protect users. Standards can be used in a court of law to provide a benchmark of best practice.

To find out more on the recently revised EN 1176 series, please visit: or contact

Ian Richardson, board director, BSIF and standards publishing manager, BSI