Keeping playgrounds safe during construction and maintenance work

A good example of safety fencing A good example of safe Heras fencing A poor example of safety fencing A poor example of safe Heras fencing

Roger Davis, RoSPA Playsafety Inspector and Trainer, writes about the considerations for playground providers when using safety fencing.

Children’s playground providers such as Town and Parish Councils need to be aware of their legal and moral responsibilities whenever a new playground is being constructed or whenever maintenance work is being carried out. Playground managers have a legal obligation and a prime duty of care to ensure playgrounds are as safe as is reasonably practicable particularly when construction or maintenance work is taking place.

Many of us are familiar with the galvanised metal wire-mesh safety fencing seen around construction sites and over the past fifteen years or so the health and safety record of the building industry has improved dramatically as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has strenuously enforced good working practices.
Good working practices that include using appropriate and correctly installed safety fencing like the HERAS© temporary anti-climb barriers shown in the first photograph in our gallery.

Note how the barrier panels have been braced with two internal panels to provide additional support to the perimeter fencing. Temporary fencing like this should be secure and robust to deter vandals and trespassers. A minimum of two clamps must always be used to join the panels and the ground or anchor boot should be level.

In the second photograph in our gallery the temporary safety fencing was anything but safe and it was fortunate no-one was hurt when it fell.

Although the playground managers, in this case a large Town Council, had entered into a contract with the installers they still had a legal and moral obligation to make sure the site was safe. After all, a contract is between at least two people and in this instance the on-site contractor had repeatedly complained to the Council that the fencing was being damaged and the site was not secure.  Someone from the Council should have visited the site and insisted that the contractor secure the fencing correctly using at least two appropriate joining clamps between the panels and not, as was found by the RoSPA Playsafety Inspector, plastic cable ties! The quality of some of the panels was questionable what with broken mesh sections and protruding wires. It should not have been used near a children’s playground. Instead of safety fencing it was dangerous fencing. Imagine the consequence of one of the heavy 2m high by 3.5m fence panels falling onto a small child.

Playground managers should not rely on contractors when it comes to health and safety even if they have entered into a contract or an agreement with suppliers or installers. Playground managers should ensure the terms and conditions of the contract are being followed. That may mean visiting the site several times and checking simple things like the security and robustness of safety fences.

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