Parks, playgrounds and fairgrounds – have fun but, take care

Posted on 10th August 2020

With the summer holidays upon us, children and families will no doubt be looking to spend a lot of free time in parks and fairgrounds; but how safe are they?

This year we have been faced with the added complication of COVID-19. Earlier this year and until very recently, the majority of parks remained open for us to enjoy our daily walk, but the playgrounds with swings and slides and climbing frames had remained closed.

A playground close to me has re-opened with advice to stay safe. These include recommendations to keep 2 meters apart from other households, to wash your hands before entering the playground and to wash them as soon as you return home. It has also been recommended that parents carry anti bacterial wipes to wipe down apparatus and carry hand sanitiser. If you or a member of your household has any symptoms of Coronavirus then you should not use the playground.

According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents it is estimated that there are approximately 40,000 personal injuries to children on playgrounds resulting in visits to hospitals or the doctor.

Accidents can arise due to faulty equipment such as swings and roundabouts which are not adequately secured or, the surface of playgrounds not meeting the required safety standards.

A client of mine had an accident on a bicycle in a local park, during her holidays, when a piece of metal was protruding from a grassed area. This resulted in her sustaining significant scarring to her legs. The Council’s contractors who had carried out work on the premises admitted liability. They had not left the area safe for lawful visitors under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957. My client was awarded compensation, approved by a District Judge at an Infant Approval Hearing.

The areas of law which govern safety of playgrounds and fairgrounds include:

  • Occupiers Liability Act 1957
  • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
  • Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Another client was playing in the sandpit at a local park when she stood on a metal nail embedded in the sandpit. The council responsible for the park were unable to demonstrate that they had a reasonable system of inspection and cleaning in place to ensure that the sandpit was raked and checked for any objects, throughout the day, and an award was given for her pain and suffering.

There have also been a number of reported incidents involving accidents on roller coasters at theme parks, one of the most notable ones being the accident at Alton Towers in November 2015. This crash resulted in two leg amputations. The outcome of the investigation was that the accident occurred as a result of human error in the manual override of the ride safety control system, without the appropriate protocols being followed.

Fairgrounds have a duty to ensure that risk assessments have been carried out on all rides and equipment to ensure that they are safe. Training also has to take place for members of staff working in theme parks.

If you do plan to ‘go outdoors’ this summer with your children, I urge you to supervise your children at all times and look out for any warning signs and ensure that rides are suitable for your child depending on their age. Have fun!

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