PLAYGROUND SAFETY FOR VACATION
RESORTS – WHAT RESORT OWNERS NEED TO KNOW
Note FOR UNITED STATES HOTELS AND
RESORTS: Safety concerns for playgrounds
are applicable to all resorts and hotels that offer playgrounds
for guests and the CSA guidelines incorporate recommendations for
playground safety from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission
Handbook on Public Playground Safety and the American Society for
Testing and Materials. United States Hotels and
Resorts will also benefit from obtaining the CSA Standard
and maintaining playgrounds in accordance with the CSA Standard.
Prepared by: HOTEL AND LEISURE LIVING
Now, more than ever, Resort Owners need to be
aware of the major safety concerns with respect to playgrounds and
how these concerns and the safety of playgrounds can affect their
Resorts. Keeping in mind that this is a controversial issue with
many variables affecting the safety of a playground and there are
many types of playgrounds that can be offered to guests, from
plastic portable playgrounds, indoor soft contained playgrounds,
home use playgrounds (purchased at lumber stores) to large outdoor
playgrounds like those found in parks and schools, Resort Owners
have a responsibility to ensure that guests are offered
playgrounds that are stimulating and safe.
IMPORTANCE OF SAFETY IN PLAYGROUNDS
Children need a safe, stimulating place to play,
run, imagine and enjoy the outdoors. Playgrounds are so prevalent
today that children immediately feel welcome at any resort that
offers this equipment and it provides an environment for children
to interact with their peers. Parents look for these facilities
when considering a family vacation at a resort, however with all
the recent press about the Toronto School Boards removing
playgrounds as a result of safety concerns and other press
releases from Health Canada, Consumer Product Safety Commission
and other safety organizations, parents are also more aware of the
dangers that playgrounds can present for children. This added
awareness can impact on your Resort, making parents more critical
of the playground structures provided for guests.
The CPSC in the US estimates that more than
200,000 children a year go to an emergency room with injuries
associated with playground equipment ¾ of which are on large
outdoor playground structures. Over half of these injuries are
from falls. About 15 children die each year in the United States
as a result of playground injuries, with most deaths occurring as
a result of entanglement or entrapment. Other causes of injury are
collisions with other children or equipment, tripping, cuts or
finger pinches, burns from hot metal slides or solid surface metal
platforms and improper use of equipment.
While the safety of the children should always
be of the utmost concern, as resort owners, you need to ensure
that your playground is safe from a liability and insurance
standpoint also. Insurance providers need to be aware of the
existence of a playground at the resort and that the playground is
maintained to ensure the safety of resort guests. As the owner of
a playground, a reasonable standard of care must be exercised in
the installation and maintenance of any playground structures. A
lawsuit as a result of a playground injury can be very expensive,
not only from a cost prospective but from a PR standpoint as well.
A playground that has been audited by a qualified inspector,
brought up to and maintained to the requirements of the current
standards and inspected regularly can substantially reduce
liability exposure should an injury occur. It is also not a matter
of simply assuming that if your equipment is new, it complies with
the current standards. While written certification from the
equipment installer should be obtained upon installation that the
current standards are met for the equipment, ongoing inspections
and maintenance are a must to reduce your liability exposure in
the event of an accident.
WHAT ARE THE CURRENT STANDARDS:
The Canadian Standards Association published the
Children’s Playspaces and Equipment Manual CAN/CSA-Z614-98 (the
" CSA Standard") in May of 1998.
The CSA Standard is a comprehensive manual of
guidelines and recommendations developed in association with a
number of industry experts. The CPSC Handbook for Public
Playground Safety, Specifications for Playgrounds and Surfacing
from the American Society for Testing and Materials and CSA staff
recommendations are incorporated in the CSA Standard to promote
and encourage well-designed, maintained and challenging playspaces
for children. The Standards Council of Canada has approved the
Standard as a National Standard of Canada.
The Ministry of Community and Social Services requires all
licensed daycare facilities to install and maintain all
playgrounds in accordance with the CSA Standard. United States
Organizations are also now incorporating the CSA Standard as a
guideline for playground safety and maintenance.
WHAT IS A PLAYSPACE UNDER THE CSA STANDARD
Any outdoor play structure and area to be used
by children at play is considered a Playspace, however the CSA
Standard does not apply to sport or fitness facilities, swimming
pools and water slides, homemade equipment, soft contained control
access equipment or backyard play equipment and amusement park
equipment. In simple terms, it would apply any commercial
playground equipment, eg: most park playground equipment, to be
used by children ages 18 months to 12 years.
HOW DOES THE STANDARD AFFECT RESORTS
The guidelines are for playstructures
anchored to the ground for use in playareas that include private
resorts and recreation developments. All playground equipment that
a manufacturer represents complies with the CSA Standard should be
documented in writing to be constructed and installed to comply
with the CSA Standard. The CSA Standard is a very technical
manual, in terms of installation, maintenance and inspections, but
it does provides valuable information for any establishment that
has or wishes to have this type of equipment as part of the
facilities available for children. It is also utilized in lawsuits
involving accidents at playgrounds.
MAJOR SAFETY CONCERNS FOR PLAYGROUNDS
Every owner of playground equipment should
educate themselves and staff to be aware of the major safety
concerns for the play structures in order to identify safety issues
for regular maintenance and inspections conducted by staff. The
following is a brief explanation of issues that Resort Owners
should be aware of:
The shock absorbency of the surfacing around and
under the playground equipment is considered to play a substantial
role in seriousness of any injury from a fall.
Many existing playgrounds are built on lawns,
which means the surfacing is usually grass or dirt. This type of
surfacing is considered unacceptable as the shock absorbency of
this material can vary due to environmental conditions and can
also become hard packed over time. Hard surfaces such as concrete
or asphalt are also considered acceptable for playground equipment
of any height.
There are basically two types of surfacing
materials that are considered acceptable, Unitary and Loose Fill.
Unitary means rubber mats or rubber type
material that is poured in place or rubber tiles that can be
installed as surfacing for the playspace. This type of surfacing
provides a clean, attractive, consistent shock-absorbing surface
with lower maintenance costs over the long term and is less likely
to be displaced during play. Installation of this surfacing for
pre-existing equipment is expensive unless the surface is level
concrete or asphalt in good condition. It also has an initial
higher cost for new equipment but requires less maintenance over
the long term. Safety concerns include ensuring the quality of the
product, flammability and hardness over time. The bonding agent
can also breakdown which can mean costly replacement of these
materials. Frost damage can affect the condition of this surface
also. If you are considering installation of a playground
structure that is handicapped accessible, a rubberized surface is
the only type that provides access (unless ramps are installed).
You also need to ensure that the rubber does not contain latex as
latex allergies can be quite common. A warranty is an important
consideration with this type of surface confirming that it will
comply with the CSA Standard to the end of the warranty period as
well as at installation. As of yet Canada does not have an agency
that tests the shock absorbency of materials and therefore all
products of this nature should conform to the American Society for
Testing and Materials Standard F-1292.
Loose fill encompasses sand, pea gravel and
wood/bark chips with the advantages of easy installation for new
and existing playground surfaces and a lower installation cost.
These surfaces are also considered more environmentally friendly
and usually are readily available. Safety concerns include
concealment of insects, animal excretment and sharp objects,
maintenance to ensure that shock absorbency is maintained (which
entails topping up and loosening) and in the case of wood chips
bacterial growth and splinters can also be a concern. If asphalt
or concrete pre-exist it must be removed prior to installation.
The surfacing of choice for resorts seems to be sand because it
allows for added play value of a sandbox, however peagravel is
less likely to contain animal excrement and does not compress as
quickly as sand.
Examples of entrapment would be where a torso
can fit through an opening and the head cannot. Spaces between
ladder rungs must be large enough for the entire body and head of
a child to fit through feet or head first or too small for a child’s
torso or head to fit. Entanglement occurs when clothing gets
caught. "S" hooks, loose bolts or other equipment are
examples of entanglement hazards. If openings are identified as
non-compliant with the CSA Standard, care must also be taken that
any steps taken to correct the non-compliance do not create other
Protective Surfacing Zones are areas located
around equipment that is covered by the protective surfacing.
Slides and swings for example have a calculation formula for
determining the protective surfacing zone. A No-Encroachment Zones
refers to the areas outside the protective surfacing zone and any
other equipment not intended for playground. Equipment can share
no-encroachment zones. Various types of equipment also have safety
clearance zone requirements, for example, under swings and above
Pinch or Shear Points
Crush, pinch and shear points result in many
unreported injuries. Crush or pinch points are mainly located
where equipment is movable and a space exists for fingers to be
pinched or crushed. Examples of these would be teeter-totters, and
Playground equipment must be well built,
installed and maintained in accordance with the CSA Standard. The
guidelines include requirements for all equipment, from the angle
of slides, the number of swings in a standard, materials used,
hazardous substances, structural integrity, load requirements,
installation requirements, inspections and maintenance,
performance requirements, layouts, and specific equipment
requirements. This is where it really gets technical and is based
on the individual equipment – in other words – the expert’s
domain. Age is a determining factor with respect to equipment
also. There are different standards for equipment designed for age’s
18 months to 5 years and 6 to 12 years.
When it comes to new equipment assurances that
it is manufactured and/or installed according to the CSA Standard
must be obtained and kept as part of the maintenance records for
the equipment. A Professional installer or the manufacturer of the
equipment should provide written confirmation that the equipment
complies with the standard guidelines and if installed, that
installation was completed in accordance with the CSA Standard. An
inspection should be conducted prior to any use of the equipment
and this is especially important if a professional does not
install the equipment. Also, the manufacturer should provide a
comprehensive warranty for the equipment.
This is where all of the safety concerns can
come into play. If the playground equipment is not new, chances
are it may not meet all of the CSA Standard’s requirements. A
safety audit by a qualified inspector, if not conducted since the
introduction of the Standard, should be undertaken to identify
safety hazards that need to be addressed.
The CSA Standard recommend daily/weekly visual
inspections, monthly documented inspections, seasonal inspections
and annual inspections.
Management or staff to identify defects or
hazards, vandalism and removal of any strings, ropes or litter in
the playground area can conduct a Daily/weekly visual inspection.
Detailed Monthly Inspections, documented to
ensure that all equipment is inspected should include, but not be
limited to, checking for damage as a result of wear and tear, eg
broken, missing, or loose equipment and any damage to surrounding
area. Concerns should be reported to management and appropriate
action taken to rectify the defects.
Seasonal Inspections, perhaps in the spring and
fall, should record an assessment of the site and preparations
completed for winter or summer use of the equipment.
A Certified Playground Safety Inspector should
conduct an Annual Comprehensive Inspection and Written Report.
The CSA Standard has a sample playground
After the completion of an inspection of the
equipment, the inspector should provide a written inspection
report which should include a report of items that do not meet
with the current CSA Standard identifying immediate safety
concerns, including equipment that should be removed, and all
areas that do not comply with the current standard. The report
should also contain recommendations for rectifying all the safety
concerns, recommendations on upgrades to meet current standards
and a risk management program. An inspector can provide greater
details as to what is contained in the report.
While there is no requirement to upgrade all
equipment to the current standards, this issue should be discussed
with the inspector and the manufacturer/installer of the
equipment. The manufacturer/installer may be aware of parts and
equipment that can be retrofitted to the playstructure to upgrade
it and provide suggestions to rectify non-compliance issues.
Playground equipment should also come with a
maintenance manual that includes recommended inspection,
lubrication and replacement schedules.
HIRING AN INSPECTOR:
Basically, there are two options when
considering who should conduct a playground safety audit. The
company that installed the equipment should have qualified
inspectors on staff or an independent inspector with the
appropriate qualifications can be hired.
Any inspector should hold a current
certification by the Canadian Playground Safety Institute in
An inspection completed by a representative of a
specific equipment manufacturer/installer works well if only one
type of equipment exists and a conflict of interest does not
occur. This inspector may also be aware of specific equipment
upgrades and safety concerns for the equipment that they install.
In addition to being certified, independent
inspectors should declare non-conflict of interest with any
playground manufacturer or supplier or confirm that they are a
third party and have proof of current Professional Errors and
Omissions insurance coverage. As daycare centres are required to
hire independent inspectors that are certified and meet these
requirements, Resort Owners may want to investigate these matters
before hiring an independent inspector. References from other
customers of the inspector may also be requested to aid in your
To obtain information on certified inspectors, please contact
the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association or check out their
web site www.activeliving.ca/activeliving/cpra.html.
The inspectors listed on this web site are not all independent
inspectors, some are employed by parks departments, others are
from playground manufacturers or installers.
Consulting services under the Hotel Fun 4 Kids™ Program can
also assist you in locating an Independent Certified Playground
Safety Inspector in your area.
The US National Recreation Parks Association, a local daycare
or parks department may be able to provide you with more
OTHER SAFETY CONCERNS
Many types of plants can create a hazard for
children. The CSA Standard contains guidelines and a list of some
common plants to avoid in children’s playspaces. Daily/weekly
visual inspections should include the removal of all mushrooms
immediately upon discovery.
While the above safety concerns and issues are
something all Resort Owners can implement, there is one safety
factor that you have little or no control over – how the
children use the equipment. Parents should, but don’t always
supervise their children. Sometimes children don’t play safely
or are using equipment that is not age appropriate. Children’s
clubs and play areas supervised by persons who are aware of safety
concerns and appropriate behaviour can provide a measure of
control over the use of the playground equipment.
About the only thing that may be helpful in
unsupervised playareas is signage. The children are unlikely to
read it, but the parents probably will. Signage also shows that
you exercised reasonable care for your guests, which may help in
the case of a lawsuit. Signage should include "USE AT OWN
RISK" and safety rules for the playground.
WHAT TO DO IF AN INJURY OCCURS
No matter how many safety precautions you
take, sometimes injuries
occur. In addition to establishing emergency proceeds and
instructing staff on "what to do in the case of an
emergency", Injury Report Forms provide a method of recording
details that may be forgotten over time. Injury Report Forms can
also be used to help identify the cause of the injury and help
determine a course of action to reduce the risk of
Resorts that cater to families are
well aware of the power of playgrounds as a feature that parents
are looking for when making travel arrangements. Advertisements
and brochures that feature playgrounds have a much higher appeal
for the vacationing family because it promotes the expectation of
a child-friendly resort. Quite often playgrounds are installed and
then just considered a fixture of the resort without any further
thought given to the ongoing maintenance and safety of the
structures. Just like any other part of a resort, playgrounds need
to be inspected and maintained to ensure the enjoyment and safety
of resort guests.
While safety issues and maintenance for pools at
resorts is almost never overlooked, playgrounds are quite often
neglected to the point where the structure can present an
immediate danger to children. Owners of family oriented resorts
can’t afford to have an unsafe playground and hopefully the
information provided herein would draw attention to the issues
that need to be addressed for playground safety at Resort Hotels.
In an effort to promote
at Family Resorts, the CSA Standard can be purchased from HOTEL
AND LEISURE LIVING SERVICES LTD. at a cost of $50.00 Cdn plus
applicable g.s.t. and shipping and handling.
Please contact us to order a copy of the CSA Standard.
Return to Top
Hotel Fun 4 Kids™ Program for Children's Clubs
incorporates the Playground Inspection Checklist from the CSA
Standard under copyright permission from CSA.
Return to Top
The Hotel Fun 4 Kids™
Program for Children's Clubs contains
an Injury Report Form specifically designed for Resorts and Hotels
and consulting services are available to create Injury Report
Forms to meet individual Resort and Hotel needs. This form
has been adapted from the CSA Injury Report Form contained in the
CSA Standard, with copyright permission from CSA.
Return to Top
For more information about the Hotel Fun 4 Kids™ Program see
Return to Top
We pride ourselves on providing our
clients with individual attention to their needs and ask that you
contact us to find out more about our products, pricing and
services. Hotel Fun 4 Kids™ Destinations receive Special
Discounts on many Products and Services.
Click here to return to Top