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Abstract 2009; 20:31-36

Soft landings: encouraging compliance with safety standards in Local Government Authority playgrounds

by Shauna Sherker, Jan Ritchie, David Eager and Rebecca Dennis

Issues addressed: Consistent with health promotion principles of good practice, addressing playground injury necessitates the creation of a supportive environment for the enhancement of wellbeing and the prevention of injuries. This study aims to survey local governments to: determine compliance with playground safety standards; establish frequency of playground inspections and maintenance; and identify motivators and barriers to compliance with safety standards.

Methods: A survey of key informants for playground safety in all 152 local government councils in New South Wales (NSW) was undertaken.

Results: Of 152 local councils in NSW (43 metropolitan and 109 non-metropolitan), 71.7% (n=109) completed the survey, 12.5% (n=19) refused to participate and no response was received by 15.8% (n=24). Self-reported compliance with key aspects of the standard was generally high. However, only 55% of councils complied with surface impact attenuation <200 gmax and <1,000 HIC. Further, only 14.7% of councils reported impact testing the playground surface during inspections. The main motivators to compliance included: reducing risk of litigation or liability; enhancing community and child safety, and minimising the risk of injury. The main barriers included a lack of: time; personnel, and a lack of adequate and appropriate funding.

Conclusions: Local Government Authorities have a duty of care to ensure the safety of playgrounds in their jurisdiction. They require time, personnel and adequate and appropriate funding in order to achieve this aim.

Key words: playground falls, safety standards, compliance.

Health Promotion Journal of Australia 2009; 20:31-36

So what?
This study provides insight into the compliance of local government in creating and maintaining healthy and safe play areas. The results highlight an opportunity for developing systems for strengthening public participation in monitoring and reporting non-compliant playground equipment and surfacing.
 

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