As many headteachers will now be aware, the ‘had an accident at work?’ claims culture has now spread to schools, with no-win-no-fee legal firms encouraging parents to sue for accidents on school premises or during trips. To help reduce the potential for accidents in the playground and to mitigate the risk of a legal claim, here are some tips that schools may find helpful.
Get playground equipment annually inspected
Failure to maintain playground equipment or ensure that it is fit for use can lead to accidents and result in a negligence claim. Indeed, it is one of the first things a lawyer will seek to find out. For this reason, schools should undertake a full inspection of all their playground equipment annually. This should be carried out by a fully qualified RPII inspector who can ensure the playground complies with BS EN1176.
The inspector will also provide the school with a written report, which can be used as evidence that an appropriate inspection has taken place. This report details the inspection findings for each piece of playground apparatus and gives details of any maintenance work or repairs required to make it comply with BSEN1176. When you use ESP Play Annual Playground Inspection Services to undertake your inspections, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing we are a highly experienced manufacturer and installer of playground equipment.
Use the right playground surfacing
There is a range of different playground surfaces available today. While all of them have their uses, which type you need depends upon who is using them, what they are used for and the type of ground and drainage you are laying them on. Getting the right surfacing in place can vastly reduce the chance of injury and legal claims.
The right surfacing can cut injuries in many ways. Softer surfacing, such as rubber mulch or wetpour, is ideal for putting under climbing frames; artificial grass acts much like real grass but with the added advantage that it doesn’t turn to slippery mud in the rain; resin-bound gravel, meanwhile, is more hardwearing than asphalt and less susceptible to developing potholes.
Choose well-made, high-quality playground equipment
Choosing better made, higher-quality school playground equipment can bring many benefits. For a start, the children will appreciate it more if they have better things to play on. They’ll also get more benefit from playing on it, whether that’s increased physical activity, improved social and physical skills or greater enjoyment.
In addition, the equipment will be safer to use, last longer and be more robust – all important for keeping accidents to a minimum and reducing the chance of someone making a legal claim.
Make sure pupils are always supervised
While accidents can occur whether a playground is supervised or not, should a parent make a claim, they have an increased chance of being successful if their child was left unsupervised at the time. This is because supervisors can prevent accidents if they see children behaving in a way that could result in injury – though sometimes things happen so quickly, this is not always possible. Just as importantly, a supervisor can react quickly if an accident takes place. The quicker they react, the less chance that an injury will be serious or that others could get injured too.
Generally, schools are excellent at providing playground supervision, however, when this relies on teaching and support staff, those people aren’t always able to get to their allocated areas before the children. Putting senior leaders and staff who are free before break times on the rota can help ensure there is always someone there on time.
Display safety signs in the playground
Schools are very good at putting up safety signs around the building, reminding children which side of the corridor to walk on and not to run, etc. You can also do this to promote safer behaviour in your playground. You can put up signs to limit the number of children on climbing apparatus, to control the direction of movement, to keep ball games away from windows, to stop children climbing on walls and anything else you deem important.
Displaying signs in the playground and on individual items of equipment is a clear indication and constant reminder that certain behaviours are not allowed and most children will behave as directed. It will also remind supervisors to intervene when they see the displayed rules being broken. From a claims perspective, a parent might be less inclined to make a claim if the accident is the result of the child breaking a rule which was clearly displayed.
Thankfully, legal claims against schools are still few and far between. That said, kids being kids, there is always going to be some risk of an injury, whether that’s a scrape, a bruise or a bump or something worse, like a broken limb. Hopefully, the advice given here will help your school reduce the potential for injury in the playground and minimise the chance of a legal claim.
For more information about our wide range of playground equipment, surfaces and inspection service, visit our Products and Services page.