South West Play

Unit 3, 78 The Strand

Newlyn, Penzance,


TR18 5HW

Tel:  01736 360254


South West Play © 2014

A Guide to the Inspection & Maintenance of Children’s Play Areas

Your responsibility

As a playground operator you have a responsibility to the public to keep your play areas in a safe condition.  In addition to physical safety, aspects of Health & Safety and Disability Discrimination Legislation should also be addressed. This entails periodic inspection, maintenance, risk assessment and a one off DDA audit - not just the equipment but the whole site.  

Personnel performing tasks as part of safety management, such as inspection, repair and maintenance should be competent and must be provided with adequate information about their tasks, responsibilities and authority.  The level of competence necessary will vary with the task involved and may necessitate training.  Specialist work such as welding parts of a structure that is deemed to affect the safety of the equipment, should only be carried out by appropriately qualified personnel.  

To achieve appropriate safety levels, a programme of regular routine and maintenance inspections - carried out systematically throughout the year - is essential.

If serious defects that put safety at risk are found during any inspection, these should be corrected without delay. If this is not possible, the equipment must be immobilised, isolated or removed. When an item of equipment has to be removed from the site, any anchorages or foundations left in the ground should be removed or made safe. The site, including the surfacing, must also be made safe.

We have produced some guides which are intended to help you understand that standard of safety required to assist you in meeting your obligations and to outline the professional support available from South West Play.  


Inspection Programme

To achieve appropriate safety levels, a programme of regular routine and maintenance inspections - carried out systematically throughout the year - is essential.

A set of checklists is included in this pack. Free copies are available from South West Play and can also be downloaded from

If serious defects that put safety at risk are found during any inspection, these should be corrected without delay. If this is not possible, the equipment must be immobilised, isolated or removed. When an item of equipment has to be removed from the site, any anchorages or foundations left in the ground should be removed or made safe. The site, including the surfacing, must also be made safe.

Routine Inspection

In most cases this can be undertaken weekly, but where a playground includes older equipment or is subject to frequent vandalism or very heavy usage, for example, or is located near the coast or in a polluted environment, daily inspection is advisable.

The inspection of the equipment should be carried out by a competent person in strict accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. The level of competence required will vary with the task.

A routine inspection includes:

• visually checking the equipment for any obvious faults or hazards that can be a danger to children, parents or carers

• ensuring the safety surface and surrounding areas are free from debris which could cause injury or be a hazard to health or the environment, for example, litter or fouling

Records of routine inspections are not mandatory but we strongly recommend they are kept for your own peace of mind. They can also prove useful if there is a claim in the unfortunate event of an accident.

Maintenance Inspection

Where there is equipment with moving parts, such as swings, roundabouts, see-saws, fitness equipment, rockers and springers, a maintenance inspection should be undertaken every three months. If the playground consists solely of static units such as slides, climbing frames and furniture, twice-yearly inspections should suffice. The extent to which the playground is used and environmental influences are also factors in helping you determine the frequency of such inspections.

The inspection of the equipment should be carried out by a competent person in strict accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. The level of competence required will vary with every task.

A maintenance inspection includes:

• all aspects of routine inspection

• checking that fixings are secure

• lubrication of bearings

• touching-in any scratches to paintwork using the appropriate paint

• repairing safety surfacing and other elements that form the rest of your site

Accurate records of maintenance inspections should be kept.

Annual Inspection

An overall inspection of all aspects of your site should be carried out once a year, ideally by an independent inspector. South West Play offer a full repair service, we will check all your playground equipment and submit a written report with recommendations for any necessary maintenance or remedial work.

If you would like us to carry out your annual inspection please phone Customer Services on 01736 360254 or email Complete records of annual inspections should be kept.

Risk Assessment

The Management of Health & Safety at Work Act 1992 requires a regular risk assessment of play areas. This entails examination of the equipment, the site and the surrounding area for any/all potential hazards that may be encountered by the playground user.

Meeting or failing to meet European Standards which would be flagged up during an annual inspection, will give a clear indication of risks associated with the equipment and safety surfacing. However, the assessment also includes other potential hazards, for example:

• proximity of open water (rivers, ponds, standing water)

• closeness of vehicle routes (roads and tracks)

• power lines

• barbed wire

Since every site is different, it is impossible to list everything here that may present a hazard or to categorise the level of risk the various characteristics of your site may pose. Objectivity, common sense and a degree of lateral thinking are required to identify these.

It is important to remember that inspection and risk assessment records are documents that may be required as evidence in the event of litigation or compensation claims. They should detail dates and times when hazards are identified and state what remedial action was taken. Their accuracy and careful management are essential.

Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act requires that public playgrounds and sports facilities comply with its provisions for ‘integrated’ or ‘inclusive’ play to cater for children of all abilities.

A Guide to the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and how the October 2004 provisions relate to outdoor play areas is available to our customers free of charge and can also be downloaded from . Intended to provide a broad understanding of what is required under the Act, it also includes a checklist for guidance.  

What standards apply to play areas and play equipment?

*BS EN 1176:2008 covers the general safety requirement of playground equipment, including inspection. It is split into 9 parts -

• Part 1 relates to the main aspects of safety, including the specification and extent of safety surfacing

• Part 2 to 6 contain additional points with specific reference to:

• swings (part 2)

• slides (part 3)

• runways - ie, runways that children travel on or along a cable by the use of gravity (part 4)

• rotating equipment (part 5)

• rocking equipment (part 6)

• Part 7 relates to inspection, maintenance and operation

• No Parts 8 or 9

• Part 10 relates to indoor softplay

• Part 11 relates to activity nets

*BS EN 1177:2008 covers the methods of testing impact absorbing playground surfacing

 BS EN 14974:2006 relates to the specifications of roller-sports facilities (skateboard/rollerblade parks and BMX tracks).

 BS EN 15312:2007 covers the specifications for multi-sport equipment (multi-use ballcourts and goal modules).

The Health & Safety at Work Act 1992 refers to environmental aspects of play areas and you should also be aware of any local government by-laws which apply in your locality.

** Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 outlines the provisions that should be included in your play area for children of all abilities.

Does my equipment have to conform to all these Standards and Acts?

No. The HSE and local government by-law requirements are mandatory, but those of BS EN 1176/1177 and BS EN 14974/15312are not. However, you have to ensure that your equipment can be demonstrated to be safe. This can be achieved through the relevant Standard’s compliance, coupled with risk assessment.

If the Standards’ requirements are not mandatory, why have them?

Continual improvement of Safety Standards in playground and recreational equipment is intended to reduce the risk of injury to the users of your facilities, whilst retaining and not diminishing the elements of play.

What should I do if my equipment fails to comply with the appropriate Standard?

Resist the temptation to over-react by closing playgrounds down, without first evaluating the situation. Carry out a risk assessment to establish the degree of hazard created by the failure.

Low risk

Equipment installed or manufactured before January 1999 is likely to fail current Standards because the criteria have changed. Remember this does not mean the equipment has become unsafe. In most cases the associated hazards will be of low risk and will not require remedial action.

Medium risk

When a medium risk is identified, remedial action - such as monitoring the hazard area or making modifications - should be taken. Since potential consequences are unlikely to be life-threatening, this work can be carried out as and when resources permit.

High risk

A hazard that could potentially cause serious or fatal injury is, of course, in the high risk category. If such a risk is identified, take immediate action to prevent both use of the equipment and public access to the site, until the fault has been rectified.

What qualifications do you need to carry out playground inspections?

Routine inspections should be carried out by someone with a basic knowledge of playground equipment and with the ability to identify recognisable hazards. Maintenance inspections should be carried out by a person with a good working knowledge of the broad spectrum of playground equipment and how each item functions. Annual inspections should be conducted by an inspector who has a thorough knowledge of, and access to, the appropriate Safety Standards and some experience of the industry. The ability to recognise obvious existing and potential hazards and their possible consequences under certain circumstances is also necessary.

What qualifications are needed by those carrying out maintenance on a playground?

Where particular skills, such as welding, are required, personnel must, of course, have the appropriate qualifications and experience. Other than that, however, the requirement is simply for a ‘competent person’.

Do I carry out inspections solely for safety reasons?

No. Careful inspection and maintenance of equipment are not only essential for children’s safety, they are also an economic necessity. Taking care of faults which in themselves may seem small or trivial reduces the risk of more serious faults developing. These can be costly to remedy and could even result in the equipment being removed from service prematurely. Regular maintenance prolongs the life of your equipment.

How can I tell that equipment meets the required Standards?

We recommend you always ask the manufacturer to provide copies of the relevant certificates to prove that each item purchased conforms to the appropriate Standard. It is important to remember that once certified equipment and safety surfacing has been purchased, it has to be installed to BS EN 1176.  Also, unless it is properly maintained, in time it may cease to comply with the Safety Standards.

What does the Kitemark mean?

The design and testing of equipment that bears the Kitemark has been verified by an independent source as meeting or exceeding the requirements of the Standard.

 Is equipment that complies with the appropriate Standard perfectly safe to use?

Complete safety is impossible to guarantee as accidents will happen. If equipment is certified as complying with the appropriate Standard and is used as intended, however, the risk of injury is minimised.

How do I put together an inspection and maintenance programme?

You are in the best position to determine at what level and frequency your area needs to be inspected and maintenance carried out.

The following comments may assist you in formulating your plans.

If you do not wish to use the services of a third party for your annual inspection, we recommend that it be carried out by someone other than the person who does the routine and quarterly/half yearly inspections. This must not be regarded as a reflection upon the routine inspector’s abilities; it is just that a fresh pair of eyes can often spot problems or hazards that may have been missed.

Make a list of the equipment on each site, along with notes about aspects of wear and tear that may be caused by use, climate variation and other influences such as salt spray or industrial pollution. When putting together a timetable for remedial maintenance work, think carefully about the feasibility of your timing as far as the seasons are concerned. For example, equipment should be painted in dry weather, which would indicate that this is ideally a summer job!

The manufacturer should have provided you with specifications and maintenance instructions prior to, or at the time of, installation. These should be carefully filed and retained as they’ll be needed for carrying out remedial work and ordering any necessary spare parts. If, for any reason, your records are incomplete in this area, ask the manufacturer for copies.  

Is there anything other than the equipment, the safety surfacing and the site involved in the inspection process?

Yes. Outdoor furniture, fencing, gates, footpaths and litter bins should also be inspected for potential hazards. Items of furniture should be permanently fixed to prevent them from being moved by unauthorised people to a position where they may present a hazard to equipment users. Vehicle access gates should be kept locked when not in use to prevent unauthorised vehicles from entering the play area. Inspection

South West Play is a member of the Association of Play Industries (API). In achieving membership of the Association, all members have to meet the required standards for operational proficiency and integrity plus demonstrate they possess the relevant commercial acumen required by the Association.

South West Play offer Inspection and Maintenance Services to check and assess playground equipment and safety surfacing in accordance with BS EN 1176:2008 - Playground Equipment.

Inspections cover:

• site safety

• suitability & condition of ancillary items

• Standards’ compliance, suitability & condition of equipment

• dimensional compliance, suitability and condition of surfacing

 Inspections are visual and non-dismantling. Similar to an MOT, they are simply an indication of the state of the equipment at the time of inspection. Advice will also be given on what remedial work should be carried out.

Naturally, simple adjustments - such as the tightening of a loose fixing - are undertaken as a matter of course. Where removal of parts is necessary for assessment, this will be indicated and only carried out if specific arrangements have been made prior to inspection.

Where failure to comply with relevant Standards is detected, it is noted and a risk assessment is made. If our inspector believes action is required, the failure will be identified as a medium or high risk and detailed in our report. In rare cases, where a fault is likely to result in serious injury or death, notification from the site by phone would be made.

Risk Assessment

South West Play offers a playground Risk Assessment service to enable playground operators to fulfil the requirements of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1992. Our inspectors use their expertise to identify and categorise any risks they may detect during the inspection process and make the appropriate recommendations for remedial work.

DDA Audit

The final part of the Disability Discrimination Act came into force in October 2004. Reasonable adjustments to physical features to overcome physical barriers to access became the legal responsibility of public service providers. A playground provider must take reasonable steps to enable disabled children and their parents/carers to use the play area and each play area should be assessed on its own merits.

Although there are products on the market specifically designed for disabled users, it is possible to design play areas that are fun for children and adults with varying levels of skill and agility, without having to purchase speciality products. It is not always possible to provide totally shared play experiences, as this could have the effect of discriminating against those who are physically able and who need to have a greater degree of physical challenge. However, opportunities can be created for similar and equally stimulating play experiences for all abilities.

Parts & Accessories

Replacement parts must comply with the manufacturer’s specifications. To maintain the validity of the Kitemark or other appropriate certification, as well as South West Plays’ guarantees.  Our Play Parts & Accessories Price List provides a comprehensive list. South West Plays' parts and accessories are available by contacting South West Play.

South West Play

If you wish to contact us then please contact our Customer Services Department on 01736 360254 or email one of the team on  Alertnatively you can write to South West Play, Unit 3, 78 The Strand, Newlyn, Penzance, Cornwall, TR18 5HW.  

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