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Purpose of this guidance

This guidance is for owners and operators of outdoor playgrounds and play areas. It applies at all 4 alert levels. Please see Coronavirus Control Plan: Alert Levels in Wales for further information

It includes the requirement for a coronavirus risk assessment for the workforce and playgrounds and provides examples of measures that may be taken to facilitate the use of outdoor playgrounds and play areas, while minimising the risk of coronavirus transmission.

This guidance draws upon the Welsh Government’s Creating Safer Public Places -Coronavirus guidance which relates to parks in the wider sense as open green spaces, many of which contain playgrounds.

This guidance applies to outdoor playgrounds and play areas in Wales but it does not provide advice for the management of play areas that are indoors.

This guidance is of a general nature and should be treated as a guide. This guidance does not supersede any legal obligations relating to health and safety, employment or equalities, and it is important that owners and operators continue to comply with existing obligations including those relating to individuals with protected characteristics.

Requirements and responsibilities

Persons responsible for playgrounds have a duty under Regulation 16 of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No.5) (Wales) Regulation 2020/1609 to take reasonable measures for the purposes of minimising the risk of exposure to or spread of coronavirus. This duty includes a requirement to:

  1. If you are at a premises with an indoor and outdoor play area, take all reasonable measures to ensure that a distance of 2 metres between all persons is maintained inside the premises. It is also recommended that social distancing is maintained in outside areas and where persons are required to wait to enter the premises;
  2. Ensure that other reasonable measures are taken to minimise risk of exposure to the virus, for example measures which limit close physical interaction, in particular face to face interaction and by improving hygiene; and
  3. Provide information to those entering or working at premises about how to minimise risk.

The Welsh Government has issued guidance on what is expected under Regulation 16, and regard must be had to the statutory guidance

This guidance supports owners and operators of playgrounds to meet these duties and should be read in conjunction with the statutory guidance issued to date. In the event of any discrepancies between this guidance and the statutory guidance, the statutory guidance takes precedence.

Outdoor playgrounds and play areas

The benefits of outdoor play to children are significant and keeping parks and playgrounds open supports children’s mental and physical health and wellbeing. Outdoor environments are lower risk in relation to coronavirus transmission.

Playgrounds generally constitute space containing outdoor structures designed for children to play in or on. They may include equipment such as slides, monkey bars, climbing frames, activity towers, swings, spring rockers, see saws and sandpits. They may also include areas of open space between such structures and so are considered to include the land on which they are situated.

Splash parks are also included; these are playgrounds equipped with sprinklers, fountains, nozzles, and other devices that spray water for children to play in.

Owners and operators

Owners or operators are defined as those responsible for the management of a playground, including assessment of compliance with any relevant legislation or guidelines. This includes, but is not limited to, local authorities, housing associations, private landowners, retail businesses, pubs and restaurants and school governing bodies.

Owners and operators responsible for playgrounds will have discretion over when they consider it safe to open for activity permitted by legislation, and may decide to keep these areas closed should they feel they are not able to facilitate their safe usage.

Each owner or operator will need to apply this guidance to the facility they are responsible for, depending on the circumstances, layout and design. This will include taking account of factors including size, equipment, and how it is organised, operated, and managed including whether to require social distancing.

Coronavirus risk assessment for playgrounds

All owners and operators of outdoor playgrounds and play areas should carry out a coronavirus risk assessment to help them decide whether the playground or play area should open and what measures should be in place. The risk assessment should:

  • Be carried out in consultation with unions or workers. All employers have a duty to consult employees on health and safety, and they are best placed to understand the risks. Owners and operators should share the risk assessment results with workers before they are expected to carry out any duties in the playground.
  • Identify the benefits to making the areas available for all users.
  • Assess the risk for users; children, parents, guardians and carers, and also staff that are involved in the management and maintenance or cleaning of equipment.
  • Identify the risks and relevant measures that could be taken to minimise them, recognising that it is not possible to completely eliminate the risk of coronavirus transmission.
  • Consider the unique make up of their playground and be proportionate. Playgrounds come in a wide variety of formats, some are small and may be a single piece of equipment such as a slide or swing, whereas some are large and incorporate a number of structures and different materials. Some outdoor playgrounds are in enclosed areas with fencing while others are not.
  • A risk assessment is not about creating excessive paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control risk. The risk assessment will help owners or operators to decide whether everything required has been completed.
  • Where owners and operators share the responsibility for management of a playground they should work together to ensure that the appropriate risk assessment is completed.

See further information from HSE on promoting a balanced approach to children’s play and leisure.

Key considerations for safely reopening playgrounds

Key considerations for safely reopening playgrounds
Consideration   Possible measures
Risk assessment Ensure an appropriate risk assessment is undertaken in the consideration of reopening the outdoor playground.

Ensure the risks identified as a result of the risk assessment are able to be mitigated and those mitigations are acted upon to enable the reopening of the playground.

Document and record all risks identified and the mitigation actions required.

Preparation

Ensure playground equipment is safe to use and that risks from damaged or defective equipment are addressed before opening.

Safety checks on sites before reopening.
Identification

For owners or operators with multiple playgrounds.

Identify a programme for re-opening and managing playgrounds and play areas based on unique characteristics of the playground, for example size, location, likely footfall and level of need within the local area.

  • A list of parks and phased re-opening timetable
  • Communication with the community about how the playground or play area will be managed including:
    • Advice on how the outdoor playground must operate
    • The social distancing measures that are put in place
    • Which play facilities will be available and which will not
    • What is expected of users of the outdoor facilities (rules of use)
    • Whether hand washing facilities will be available and if not advise that all users bring hand sanitisers with them
    • How the outdoor area will be monitored/maintained
Social distancing

Social or physical distancing is one of the ways of managing and reducing the risks of transmission and infection.

Persons responsible for playgrounds are required to take all reasonable measures to ensure that a distance of 2 metres between all persons is maintained in indoor areas. There is no requirement for social distancing outdoors unless a risk assessment identifies distancing as a reasonable measure to be applied.

Signage to:

  • Maintain social/physical distancing in indoor places where possible in line with the current guidelines for adults and children; and for outdoor areas if the risk assessment identifies it as a reasonable measure to be applied.
  • Suggest a maximum number of users
  • Suggest a maximum playing time during busy periods
  • Request that only 1 adult accompany younger children for supervision

Larger facilities may consider:

  • A queuing system and area
  • Booking system
Cleaning and hygiene Scientific advice suggests that the virus can survive for up to several days on some hard surfaces, particularly when indoors. These risks are reduced when outdoors, where surfaces may be subject to UV light and/or rain. This guidance applies to outdoor playgrounds but the virus could survive long enough on frequently used or touched outdoor surfaces to facilitate transmission in areas where there is high usage. This risk can however be reduced or mitigated by the possible measures suggested.

Signage to:

  • Encourage frequent and effective handwashing or use of hand sanitisers by users, parents, guardians or carers.
  • Signpost nearest handwashing facilities.
  • Indicate that the consumption of food or drink in the playground is not permitted.
  • Request parents, guardians or carers dispose of all litter properly in litter bins provided, or take it home where a bin is not provided.
  • Remind users of their own responsibilities in using the equipment.

Ensure sufficient waste facilities and collection arrangements are put in place.

Larger facilities may consider:

  • Cleaning regimes for high traffic touch points such as playground equipment, seating areas
Communication and provision of information

Owners and operators have a duty to provide information about how to minimise risk or exposure to coronavirus. Promoting responsible behaviour by children, parents, carers in line with the social/physical distancing and hygiene and cleaning considerations above through general channels in order to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus.

Ensuring clear and easy to understand messages if play spaces are opened in a phased way.

  • On-site signage

  • Social media messages 
    Website

  • Child friendly language and messaging on media children and families use

  • Messaging via schools and community groups

  • Local newspaper/radio

Children with additional learning needs

Issues that are likely to be specific to this group include:

  • ease of access to playgrounds for children with additional learning needs
  • an understanding that many need frequent reminders about rules of behaviour in playground settings
  • changes to familiar environments are likely to require longer periods of adjustment
  • disabled children and young people may need assistance with moving from one place to the next
  • some additional learning needs are not evident, such as hearing impairment, and may therefore account for non-responsiveness to verbal instruction
  • at higher risk of being involved in bullying incidents

Include any relevant information in communication with parents

Include in consideration around priority order for parks to open

This information could be targeted at certain groups or individuals

Keeping staff safe

Staff roles will probably include:

  • Waste collection
  • Maintenance and repair

For larger facilities staff roles could include:

  • cleaning playground equipment and surrounding areas
  • managing queues of those waiting to use equipment
  • stewarding equipment to ensure users comply with rules made by the owner or operator

Unless staff are in a situation where the risk of coronavirus transmission is extremely high, risk assessments should reflect the fact that the role of PPE in providing additional protection is limited.

Staff should maintain a 2m distance from any users of the facility when it is open if there is an indoor area. For outdoor areas, it is recommended that staff maintain a 2m distance from any users.Waste and maintenance duties should be done when the facility is not in use. Wearing gloves and apron for waste removal, cleaning or maintenance. Where these are single use items they should not be reused. Where they are multiple use items they must be cleaned and stored in line with manufacturers guidelines. All items must be appropriately disposed of.

It is recommended that any stewarding roles or management of queues etc must take account of 2m distance.

Additional signage and communication considerations

Face coverings

The use of face coverings should be in line with current guidance for employers and the face coverings guidance for the public in relation to children, adults and those with additional learning needs.

Parents should be aware that wearing a face covering in a playground setting could pose an additional safety risk

Other related guidance

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