Indoor Soft Play

Fully Enclosed Play Equipment

A picture of a soft play area. Over the last few years there has been a considerable increase in indoor play areas. At the same time the scope of activities in these areas has increased and more adventurous items are constantly being introduced.

RoSPA is the leading provider of safety reports on indoor play areas

Standards and Guidelines

BS EN 1176-10:2008 and BS 8409:2009

The standard and code of practice are meant to help both established site operators and also those seeking to establish a new venture.

Neither standard is mandatory in law. Compliance with the standard(s) therefore is not a legal obligation; however failure to comply will considerably weaken your position in the event of litigation.

Planning and Development

Potential new operators should consider the following as part of their business plan:

  1. Is the facility to be "stand alone" or will it be part of an existing business?
  2. Is it to be sited in an existing building or in its own purpose built area?
  3. Is it to be on a single or multiple levels?
  4. Child user capacity is calculated using Table 1 of EN 1176-10:2008
  5. A minimum of two fire exits for up to 100 users with an additional exit for every 100 extra users of the building. This includes staff, parents, and carers as well as the children.
  6. The level of supervision required will depend on design and layout and maximum numbers but could be reduced with improved sight lines into the play area.
  7. Is equipment to be static, mobile, moving, or a combination of these?
  8. Who is the area intended for and what age groups is the area to cater for?
  9. Provision of play equipment separating age groups.
  10. Are children's parties to be promoted?
  11. Are catering facilities to be provided and if so what type and how are these to be separated from the main play frame?
  12. Have the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 been allowed for and is there reasonable provision for those with additional needs to access the facility?
  13. What provisions are to be made for parents and carers?
  14. What days and times the facility is to be open?

It is strongly recommended that a business plan is produced before proceeding further.

Consultation

Consultation is advised with as many relevant bodies/people as possible. The following are some suggested contacts and points to be considered:

Contacts

Other operators of facilities:

  • Play Providers Association: www.playproviders.org.uk/
  • Local Authority Child Welfare
  • Local Environmental Health
  • Local Planning Officers
  • Local Fire Service

Points to consider:

  • Health and Safety
  • Child welfare
  • Planning and building controls
  • Fire precautions and fire drills
  • Insurance (see separate section on Insurance)
  • Noise
  • Food Hygiene
  • Heating of the building
  • Ventilation (good ventilation at upper levels in warm weather is of particular importance)
  • Safety of electrical wiring and any electrical or gas fixtures
  • Parking and local transport services

RoSPA offer a consultancy service to assist Operators when setting up new facilities.

Choice of Supplier

Before deciding upon a supplier:

  1. Ask for details and contacts for other sites they have installed and speak to these operators.
  2. Ask to be shown other sites that they have installed.
  3. Check if they are a member of the Trade Body – The Association of Play Industries (www.api-play.org has a list of members).
  4. Check that they have adequate insurance cover. RoSPA recommend a minimum of £5,000,000 public liability and product liability insurances.
  5. Check if they offer a maintenance programme, including an emergency call out service.
  6. Can the supplier provide certification as to the structural integrity of the play frame and that equipment and materials are tested to meet current standards.

Having decided on a supplier it is recommended that a RoSPA Post Installation Inspection be made a condition of contract to identify any standard failures and safety concerns.

Layout and Design of the Facility

Many problems are encountered by RoSPA due to poor equipment and room design and layout. RoSPA offer a service whereby they can check and comment on plans before construction/installation takes place (a fee is applicable).

The following are some of the points to be considered with regard to design:

  1. Good separation of age groups.
  2. Clear separation of catering and viewing areas from the main play space and provision of a slow exit from the play area into these areas.
  3. If the area is part of another structure is there a secure method of restricting access when the area is not in use?
  4. Are there "blind spots" where children cannot be seen from the supervision points?
  5. Does the reception area give a good view of the play frame?
  6. Are there measures to prevent access to "unauthorised" areas such as roof or void spaces of the play frame, electrical, heating, ventilation and lighting equipment, and any other potentially hazardous location?
  7. Can children be easily kept out of the "cooking" area where catering is provided and is there a safe entrance/exit from there for staff?
  8. Is furniture provided with rounded or chamfered edges, stable and is it located not to obstruct access and emergency exits?
  9. Maximum height restrictions are in place and clearly identifiable.
  10. All areas are easily accessible for cleaning and maintenance.
  11. Provision of outside lighting.

The following standard may apply:
BSEN 1176-10:2008 Fully Enclosed Play Equipment
BS 8409:2009 - The facility
BS 5306-8 - Fire fighting equipment
BS 5266 or BS EN 1838 - Emergency lighting
BS 5395 or BS EN 1125 - Emergency exits

Doors

  • Doors should always have re-enforced glass vision panels and door closers where appropriate
  • Doors should not open directly into the play space or where they could cause a hazard. There should be no foot or finger entrapments in doors. RoSPA recommend the provision of hinge protectors to prevent finger entrapment
  • Handles should be rounded and, where to be used by children, should be at a height of 610mm.

Toilet Facilities

  • Toilet and baby changing facilities should be either housed within the facility or be close at hand. Soap and hand drying facilities should be provided in accordance with BS 6465-1. Care should be taken with hot water temperatures for hand washing (Health and Safety at Work Act 1974). Toilets should be of a size suitable for the users of the facility. Any door locks should be "safe locks" capable of being operated from both sides. There should be no finger or foot entrapments in the doors
  • Good baby changing facilities with nappy disposal opportunities should be provided. Any nappy containers should be emptied regularly

Storage Spaces

  • Sufficient space should be provided for safe storage of items such as buggies that may clutter and obstruct access and exit routes
  • Shoes should not be worn in the play space and sufficient storage should be provided possibly at reception for control and security
  • Socks must be worn within the play facility to reduce the spread of foot diseases (no bare feet)

Security

The following should be born in mind:

  1. Emergency exits should lead to a safe area and doors should be alarmed or have a flashing light to indicate and warn staff of unauthorized use. There should be no likelihood of any such emergency exit being accidentally blocked.
  2. The area both sides of the door should have a suitable surface to be walked on by children not wearing shoes. (Children may not have time to retrieve shoes in an emergency).
  3. Good sight lines into the play area are essential and staff should be positioned to see all area.
  4. Control measures should be implemented to ensure maximum numbers are not exceeded and that unauthorized persons are denied access. (Child Protection Policy).

Disabled Children

The range of impairments is vast and can vary for those children attending play facilities. Before allowing use of the facility it is recommended that managers carry out a full risk assessment to ascertain the types of special needs that can be incorporated and carry out appropriate measures. Whilst RoSPA is strongly in favor of inclusion of children with disabled children it does recognise that some impairments are such that separate sessions for some children may be necessary. Kidsactive specialise in provision of facilities for children with special needs and they can be contacted for advice on www.kidsactive.org.uk

Managing the Area

Good management and supervision is the key to a successful and safe play area and staff training is essential. Some on site training can be incorporated into the RoSPA Post Installation inspection and RoSPA provide a training course for indoor play area staff. This course is held on the operator's own facility. For further details contact Alyson Pugh on: +44 (0)1793 317470 or email apugh@rospaplaysafety.co.uk

Main points for staff are:

  1. All staff should be aware of emergency evacuation procedures and how to deal with an injured or comatose child. Contact details for the emergency services should be at hand. Safe hand over of children to adult carers after evacuation child protection policy.
  2. There should always be sufficient staff to adequately supervise the numbers on the play structure and to carry out emergency evacuation procedures. Staff should be positioned at good vantage points to obtain maximum supervision. At more adventurous areas and multi-use equipment (Astra Slides etc) a higher level of supervision may be necessary.
  3. The maximum user numbers must not be exceeded. The supplier will give a figure for each design based on calculation from Table 1 BS EN 1176-10:2008. Height restrictions should be strictly applied.
  4. Children should only be allowed in the space designated for their own age/height.
  5. Carers should not be allowed into play areas unless stated in procedures to allow access to play areas at special sessions (parent and toddler sessions etc).
  6. Where play becomes excessively boisterous staff should intervene to protect the health and safety of all the children.
  7. Staff should regularly practice emergency evacuation drills with children from the play area (see Parties).
  8. Are there net cutting tools available to allow cutting of netting for emergency access (such knives should be secured against unauthorised access?
  9. Do all staff know where the accident book is kept and how to fill it in?
  10. Are staff aware of cleanliness regimes and how to clean blood and body fluid spills? Children who are bleeding (however little) should be removed from the area until any blood flow has been treated and ceased.
  11. Emergency exits and routes to them must be kept clear at all times.
  12. Slides are often the quickest method of exit in an emergency from upper levels of play but where slides exit into ball pools (pre 2008 standard) or other such areas these areas may present obstacles and cause congestion. Good procedures and control measures are required.
  13. Temperatures within the play facility should be acceptable and maintained (heat rises and upper play levels should be checked regularly).
  14. Children should remove shoes before playing on the play equipment (if equipment designs requires) but socks must be worn to reduce possible infection of foot diseases (no bare feet). Children should also wear appropriate clothing.
  15. No food or drinks should be taken into the play space.

Inspections

A well-documented inspection regime is essential and may be a condition of your insurance.

The following inspections should be undertaken:-

New Facilities

A RoSPA Post Installation Inspection is strongly advised for all new indoor play facilities to determine safety and standard compliance.

All Areas

Daily

  • Pre-opening: Inspection to look for signs of damage, vandalism etc.
  • In busy times more than one such inspection may be necessary. Also new units tend to get very heavy initial usage and extra checks are necessary.

Weekly

  • A more detailed inspection to check security of all items.

Annual

  • An Independent Annual Inspection (RoSPA undertakes these) checking for all safety issues. RoSPA also provides advice on management procedures during these inspections (for very heavy use areas more than one inspection of this type is recommended every year).

Where inspections indicate the need for maintenance the work identified should be carried out as soon as possible. All work identified as being necessary and details of remedial action (including dates) should be fully documented.

To organise a RoSPA Inspection contact RoSPA on 01793 317470 or email info@rospaplaysafety.co.uk. (further details of inspections are available on the Information section of this web site).
In addition a programme for safety testing procedures for the following should be drawn up:

  1. All fixed and portable electrical equipment and installations.
  2. All gas equipment (included any bottled gas).
  3. All lifting equipment.
  4. All fire fighting equipment and fire and smoke detection equipment.

Cleaning

  • The area should be kept clean at all times. This includes areas not generally accessible to users. All cleaning materials must be non hazardous. The play equipment supplier should be consulted on suitable cleaning agents
  • There should be clear procedures in place (and all staff should be aware of them) for immediate cleaning and disinfecting in the event of urination, defecation, blood spillage or vomiting

Accidents

  • Invariably accidents will happen and it is important that all members of staff are fully trained to react and deal with these. At all times the carer should be kept informed of all actions taken

Contact Us

Playsafety Ltd *
+44 (0)1793 317470
info@rospaplaysafety.co.uk
Unit 78, Shrivenham Hundred Business Park, Watchfield, Swindon, SN6 8TY
Contact form
* RoSPA’s activities in the area of play safety are carried out under an exclusive licence arrangement by an independent and highly experienced specialist company, “Playsafety Ltd” which trades under such licence as “RoSPA Play Safety”.