Playgrounds To Become Riskier and Fun Again

Playgrounds To Become Riskier and Fun Again

This Toaster Is Hot

The risk aversion tide may be turning! Fun stopping and soul destroying signs like this may finally be a thing of the past as Australian Regulators decide to follow the new European Standards for Playground Safety. (see news release below)

As Dr Rob Long recently wrote here:

It has finally dawned upon the regulatory mindset that kids are not getting outside and that the quest for risk aversion has ruined any attraction of kids to take risk outside. A lack of insight a few years ago by the regulation mindset (the inability to see trajectory) didn’t see the trade off for fear of harm simply created a new and insidious form of harm, obesity. Then what do we see in response, a standard to manufacture and create fun? OMG, even in seeking solutions the bloody regulatory mindset doesn’t get it. The idea that one can orchestrate and manufacture fun misses the point. My grandkids have more fun down at the creek and playing with pots and pans than the sterile monuments to fear regulators have erected.

When do you reckon that we may see some changes to some of the over zealous workplace standards? Kids can now climb to free heights of 3m – without a safety harness or a SWMS!!

A couple of other recent related articles:

Desensitizing to Kids Risk and Safety Desensitizing to Kids Risk and SafetyOne of the best ways to desensitize people against effective assessment and management of risk and safety is to give them just enough exposure to something so, when it comes to actually experiencing the realities of risk, they have been inoculated against it…… Content knowledge without context is rarely educational, it’s just information. Information is not education and data is not learning.
image.png A positive story about embracing riskThe parent continued: “I just wanted to make sure you don’t change this play environment, because kids break their arms.” Mr. McLachlan took the unexpected vote of confidence as a further sign that his educational-play experiment was working: Fewer children were getting hurt on the playground. Students focused better in class. There was also less bullying, less tattling. Incidents of vandalism had dropped off.

 

STANDARDS AUSTRALIA NEWS REALEASE:

NEW PLAYGROUND STANDARDS

News Release 16 April 2014

• Promotes fun and enjoyment over risk-aversion
• New standards to encourage outdoor-activity
• Develops key skills in risk-taking and judgement

In an effort to encourage children to play outdoors, Standards Australia today announced significant changes to playground standards which will make playgrounds more fun, stimulating and exciting.

“One of the joys of Australian childhood is being outdoors racing around and having fun with your friends in playgrounds. Far from wrapping kids in cotton wool, this standard is all about challenging kids and developing important skills for life,” said Dr Bronwyn Evans, Chief Executive Officer, Standards Australia.

“The standard will allow Australian children to taste risk and excitement. They will perceive they are taking greater risks, and in so doing stretch and test their limits,” said Associate Professor David Eager.

Following an extensive public comment process, Standards Australia has published revised Playground Standards, AS 4685 Parts 1 to 6. The revised standard is an adoption of the European Standard for Playground Equipment EN 1176:2008 Parts 1 to 6 with some minor deviations that take account of specific Australian safety and design
requirements such as higher UV exposure.

Associate Professor Eager, Chairperson of Standards Australia’s Children’s Playground Equipment Committee, CS-005, said the standard seeks to minimise risk of injury to children using playgrounds and specify minimal acceptable standards for equipment.

“The standard is not intended to provide risk free play environments. Research has confirmed that risk-taking is an essential feature of play and healthy childhood development. AS 4685:2014 is based on decades of injury data and accident patterns that have been observed in the children population around the world,” he added.

“Australian children will be able to enjoy and experience a larger and more exciting range of playground equipment. I hope it will encourage more children to be outdoors and exercising,” Dr Evans concluded said.

Convincing Public Authorities that making playgrounds more fun and challenging is actually going to make kids safer and healthier may take some doing but here are some interesting and somewhat unexpected quotes from Institute of Public Works Engineering

The most obvious change is the increase in the free height of fall from 2.5 to 3.0 metres. Another notable change is that the minimum height of equipment for which tested impact-attenuating surface must be installed has increased from 500mm to 600mm. The European Playground Standard has 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. Quite the contrary. 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 maximum free height of fall from upper body equipment remains at 2.2m. – See more at: http://www.ipwea.org/ipweaexecutivesforum/ blogs/ipwea-australasia/2014/03/10 /new-internationally-aligned-playground-equipment-standard #sthash.D1tKVn4U.dpuf

The development of a sense of what activities are safe (i.e. where is the boundary between what may be considered safe and not safe) is an important learning skill for children to master, as it is a life-long skill that every child needs to acquire. It is essential that children have opportunities to explore and experiment in an environment that provides a degree of managed risk. What is required is the capacity to achieve safe play environments and equipment while still enabling children to take part in risk-managed learning experiences. Too little challenge for a child can often lead to inappropriate risk-taking – getting the correct balance is the key.

Free Playground Safety Checklist

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