A safe playground is a sum of its parts
Playground safety is a sum of many factors. Even if the main aim is to make playgrounds sufficiently challenging, exciting, and inspirational for learning children, they still also need to be safe. Lappset Group considers ensuring product safety an issue of paramount importance. We follow safety standards meticulously in all stages of our product design, manufacture and installation. This is our way of minimising injuries on playgrounds and eliminating dangers as soon as possible.
The EN 1176 playground safety standard sets strict conditions on the safety of playground products. The recommendations included in the standard, 40 years of experience, research and testing are the foundations on which the real safety of Lappset products lies.
We participate actively in international standardisation work and cooperate both with the Finnish Standards Association (SFS) and the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes). We have long been actively involved in formulating and developing playground safety standards. By the time new safety requirements are laid down in international standards, Lappset has already been meeting them for years.
Good relationships with other experts around the world have also helped and will continue to help Lappset to improve product safety further and further. Thanks to experience and know-how, even the most innovative products can be designed and built with safety considerations in mind. First-hand information received from customers has also helped us to raise the safety of our products to the high standard for which Lappset is now known. We understand the value of feedback – whether positive or negative – and we hope to keep receiving more in the future.
Lappset certifies its playground and sports equipment through the best-known playground equipment testing laboratory, TÜV (Technischer Überwachungsverein) in Germany, according to the strictest possible GS (Geprüfte Sicherheit) standard. The certification covers both product design and the quality of manufacture. We also have an ISO 9001 quality certificate and an ISO 14001 environmental certificate. Together with safety considerations, these certificates play a vital role in ensuring overall quality.
The correct balance of safety and product intricacy depends on the target age group of each product. All products are designed so that getting on them is more challenging than playing on them or getting off them.
The younger the product age group, the more important it is to ensure good usability. Early teens need to be provided with sufficiently challenging yet technically controlled environments where they can test their physical limits and improve their motor skills.
The EN 1176 safety standard identifies numerous different factors that need to be taken into account in designing playground equipment. One of these is entrapment. All gaps and corners between structural components need to be designed so as to prevent children’s fingers, heads or bodies from getting trapped. Special testing apparatus is used to measure any gaps in products. If, for instance, a gap is big enough for a child’s body to pass through, it needs to also allow a child’s head to pass. In addition, adults need to be able to access all sections of the equipment in order to help children in case of entrapment.
A large percentage of accidents on playgrounds are the result of play. This is why not all accidents can be prevented. The most important thing in terms of safety is to remember that playgrounds consist of a lot more than just the equipment. All products need to be surrounded by a safety zone in any areas where the potential fall height is more than 600 mm, and this area needs to have shock absorbing safety surfacing. Although safety surfacing cannot prevent accidents, it does protect children from serious head injuries and lowers the severity of other injuries as well.
Instructions for the dimensions and overlap of safety zones and for choosing floor materials are included in international standards. The safety zones of adjoining equipment can overlap as long as there is no momentum involved in using the products like there is with swings, roundabouts and slides, for example. Safety standards do not apply to benches, tables and rubbish bins located in the vicinity of playground equipment. However, such items should never be installed within a safety zone, or so that they can be easily moved, or (as Tukes points out) so that they can be used for climbing into a tree or over a fence. As long as the target group is kept in mind during playground design, the most serious risks associated with these structures can nevertheless also be avoided.
According to Tukes guidelines, a playground must be provided with a fence 120 cm high if there are risks in the surroundings (such as busy roads or a lake or a river) that children need to be protected from.
More and more playgrounds now also feature fitness and parkour equipment. No safety standards have yet been established for positioning these products. In order to ensure the safety of fitness and parkour equipment, Lappset is participating as an invited expert in the drawing up of a national safety standard for parkour equipment in the UK.
Lappset has a solid understanding of how play and fitness environments can be combined without compromising the needs of either user group. Combining areas designed for different purposes is yet another step towards a future where playgrounds genuinely function as meeting places for three different generations.
Appropriate fencing is erected around playgrounds during construction. All construction sites are firmly locked up especially in the evenings and overnight. Children are prevented from entering playgrounds until all equipment has been securely installed and safety surfacing laid down.
Calculating safety zones and measuring gaps between structural components is very important for safety.
The structural strength of a product is a combination of its components and joints. This is why installation staff needs to have sufficient know-how of the tightening torques of different sized fasteners. Excessive tightening damages fastenings and may compromise the structural strength of a product even before it is ready for use.
All equipment and the surrounding area are inspected by competent staff before a playground is opened to the public. A signed report is produced of each inspection and kept with other documents relating to the playground, including instructions for installation, parts lists and maintenance logs. Inspectors should not be involved in the installation process or be personally responsible for the costs of repairing any faults in the equipment.
In principle, safety standards only apply to products installed after the adoption of the standards. The EN 1176 and EN 1177 safety standards entered into force in 2008, and any equipment manufactured in or after 2009 needs to fulfil their requirements. Safety requirements can be imposed retrospectively, but revisions to existing standards, for example, cannot stipulate that existing products need to be modified.
However, any modifications and repairs carried out on existing equipment need to comply with the latest safety requirements. For example, existing staircases that lack adequate safety railings do not necessarily need to be replaced when a new standard is adopted, but once these fail, the replacement staircases have to comply with the latest safety standards. This means that eventually all products will comply with international safety requirements. Until then, the emphasis is on ensuring that no product is ever dangerous to use. This is why competent inspectors need to assess whether any aspects of old products need to be modified immediately.
The level of safety established during playground installation needs to be maintained throughout the life cycle of the products. Annual inspections help to assess whether the materials used in the products have deteriorated due to rust, rot or physical damage.
Wearing parts may need to be inspected as often as four times a year, depending on the popularity of individual playgrounds.
Visual inspections are used on particularly popular playgrounds or in areas where the risk of vandalism is high. The frequency of visual inspections can vary from a couple of visits per month to almost daily visits. The phone number of the person responsible for maintaining the playground should be posted on the playground info board, as this has been found to be a significant factor in quickly noticing and correcting damage caused by vandalism.
Thanks to their modular structure, most Lappset products can be retrospectively fitted with new functions and, in case of special needs, accessibility features such as handles or railings.
Product quality also depends on many different factors. The size of components, the strength of welded joints, the durability of surface treatments, the thickness of base coats, geometrical tolerances and the UV resistance of paints all contribute to the overall quality of products. That is why Lappset Group invests a lot of time and resources in maintaining the high product quality.
Lappset has used its more than 40 years of experience to develop a quality control system according to which all new components are meticulously inspected. Spot checks are also carried out on production lines. Every complaint relating to quality is followed up carefully, and any components left in warehouses are inspected.
The structural strength of products is tested both according to the applicable standards and Lappset’s own testing protocols, which are often considerably stricter than the compulsory tests. For example, Lappset’s own test for swing frames involves almost double the loads used in standardised testing. Moreover, the frames are subjected to torsion which wears the frames the most, contrary to the minimum requirements of standard test methods. Tests on materials include strength, corrosion resistance and UV resistance testing. The safety of fully assembled structures is assessed using tests for impact, loading and the risk of entrapment. Investing in product safety is a conscious choice for Lappset and an important element of our corporate social responsibility.