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Latest Guidance of the re opening of playgrounds (26 June 2020)
The Government has announced that playgrounds and outdoor gyms will reopen from July 4th, 2020. Unlike other buildings, outdoor play equipment does not always exist within confined areas and it may have been very difficult to restrict access during the lockdown. The approach to risk assessment will need to place a great emphasis on changing the user’s own behaviour so that they take responsibility for maintaining social distancing and cleanliness.
Please be minded that before you open the play areas a full risk assessment of the equipment and area should be carried. A thorough cleaning/disinfecting of the equipment and placing of notices to remind the public to still social distance and follow government guidelines.
All Councils should inform their insurance company that they will be opening the play areas. We are aware that Zurich Insurance are insisting that local councils should strictly adhere to the Government Guidelines on re-opening such facilities. Local councils will possibly find it impossible to stick to the requirements issued such as cleaning after each use etc, provision of hand and equipment sanitisers etc.
The following is a few suggestions to assist with the opening of areas:
Develop an action plan for re-opening play areas safely including :
- Preparing the site for reopening including arrangements for any regular safety/site inspections and maintenance.
- Carry out your normal risk assessment (RA) checks but include managing the additional risks related to Covid-19 for all user groups and contractors/staff.
- Use the RA to develop a safe management plan for each play area. Create a a checklist for keeping the equipment and surrounding area safe including :
o Clearing the area of unnecessary furniture
- o Reconfiguration of the area to avoid pinch points
- o Encouraging time limited visits
- o Managing waste
- o Signage
- o Inspections
- Engage with contractors to discuss the risks and ensure you have copies of external risk assessments.
- Consider PPE and other equipment requirements for staff.
- Develop clear and appropriate signage.
- Communications and building public confidence: - let the public know what steps you have taken to manage risks and ensure public safety (i.e. enhanced cleaning, design etc.)
- Publish guidance for users.
This is not a definitive guide – there are no minimum standards or criteria except that you must meet the 3 Covid-19 tests on social distancing, personal hygiene and the cleanliness of hard surfaces.
Risks change, guidance changes and so your risk assessment must be kept under review and rechecked against government guidance.
Steps to Risk Assessment
The Covid-19 risk assessment is looking at specific concerns related to public health which are in addition to your normal measures.
It is important that the council promotes a very clear message about the actions which users can adopt to keep themselves safe. Changing user behaviour is critical to managing the risks associated with Covid-19.
Step 1 : The key factors
Before starting your risk assessment, take time to consider the individual circumstances of each play area :
- Who : what age groups are the main users of the equipment. Is your equipment only used by local people or does it attract users from the surrounding areas? Is the equipment used by other groups i.e preschool, after school clubs, youth clubs etc. Don’t forget those who manage and maintain the area on behalf of the council.
- How : Is it normally used under parental supervision or is it open to all ages. Does the usage change at weekends and what will happen in school holidays?
- Where : where are the play areas in relation to usage points – car parks, open space, beaches, shops, main roads. Does this make any difference to how it might be used
- Other matters : what else is around the play area which would encourage people to gather and use the area for other activities i.e. picnic tables and benches.
Step 2 : What are the Risks?
Maintaining social distancing
- What works for your setting
- Managing pinch points
- Partial closure or removal of equipment
- Encouraging time limits for visits
- Limiting the number of users at any one time
- Physical guides in queuing areas and exit points
Promoting use of face masks
- Reconfigure seating to promote side by side contact
Good signage is important, and you should make sure this is as clear and as visible as possible – promotion on wider social media would also be recommended. The council can use its website and local magazines, newsletters, social media and local notices around the parish to let residents know of the importance of maintaining social distancing and using the equipment responsibly.
Cleaning protocols and frequency
It is difficult to ensure cleaning in an outdoor setting, especially where the equipment encourages play and socialising. The council should consider whether it is possible to take any actions to ensure the cleanliness of hard and soft surfaces.
If your site has a high volume of users at any one time you may need to consider a cleaning routine for touch points. You can encourage users to bring their own cleaning wipes to clean touch points before and after use.
There may be some pieces of equipment where it is impossible to ensure cleanliness i.e. enclosed crawl through areas, playhouses and tunnels and it may be necessary for some enhanced signage or closure.
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