Management implications - The new playground Standard AS 4685:2014

Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
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Ten years have passed since Standards Australia last updated the document that sets out the requirements for playground equipment in Australia. The Chairperson of the Playground Equipment and Surfacing Committee CS-005 will explain AS 4685:2014 and how it will affect councils and other playspace planners and managers. AS 4685:2014 introduces the concept of classification by intended usage. There are now three separate categories, namely: equipment easily accessible to all ages; equipment not easily accessible; and supervised early childhood services.; these categories cannot be mixed. AS 4685:2014 increases the free height of fall from 2.5 m to 3.0 m. The minimum height of equipment for which tested impact attenuating surface must be installed has increased from 500 mm to 600 mm. The Europeans have allowed these more lenient fall heights for 15 years and to-date there is no evidence that these ‘more risky’ exposures have led to either a greater number of injuries or more severe injuries. The research has concluded that the increase in height has allowed playground designers the opportunity to provide play experiences that are more exciting and challenging for children while not increasing the likelihood or severity of accidents. The more challenging equipment has allowed children all around the world to extend their personal boundaries in a controlled but more challenging risk-managed environment, thus better equipping them for life’s more demanding experiences. The most important consideration for councils is not to panic. Playgrounds have not become more dangerous just because they don’t comply with the new Standard. Like all new Standards, its introduction needs to be managed giving due regard to existing use rights and common sense. Standards are meant to be used intelligently and the strict compliance with the relevant Standard will not automatically eliminate all accidents. Replacement equipment will need to comply with the new Standard. Councils and other playground-owning organisations should plan and budget for a phased-in compliance with the new Standard. If they haven’t already done so, it is recommended that councils undertake risk management audits (AS/NZS ISO 31000) and make appropriate additional provisioning within their 2014/15 budgets.
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