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Use of chemicals on play areas

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Weed and the general growth of vegetation on children’s play areas can pose a risk to their safety as trip hazards.

Also the unchecked growth of some vegetation can pose a threat to the integrity of the infrastructure. For both reasons weed and vegetation growth in these areas need to be managed in a suitable and sustainable manner.

Use of chemicals

The use of chemicals and pesticides is controlled by legislation such as the Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986, the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002.


  • Cover the supply, sale, storage and use to agreed regulations
  • Ensure staff have appropriate training - and, where necessary, a certificate of competence
  • Prohibit unauthorised use
  • Require a detailed usage log.
  • Require the use of protective equipment

The use of CCA as a wood preservative is banned by the EU. The ban is not retrospective.

Chemicals will be used on playgrounds in a variety of ways but the above legislation should be complied with at all times.

Weed control

Weed control is required to reduce trip hazards and certain types of long-term maintenance costs. However, there are concerns about the use of pesticides and herbicides in areas such as playgrounds due to possible exposure of users to potentially harmful chemicals. Therefore we recommend that non-chemical methods of weed control be used wherever possible in preference to chemical methods.

We do understand that in certain instances it may not be possible to carry out effective non chemical treatment in which case the chemical method that uses the least possible active substance and reduces the possibility of spray drift and contamination of non target objects be used. An example of this approach would be the use of stem injection techniques to control invasive species such as Japanese Knotweed.

Weeds and grasses in playground surfaces

Control weeds on hard surfaces, synthetic or bark and other loose fill materials ideally using mechanical means (e.g. hand weeding). Other non-chemical options should be explored and if it is deemed that the use of a herbicide is necessary a professional contractor should be consulted.


Algae on timber, metal and a variety of surfaces, can be a problem. The EU no longer recommends the use of chemicals to treat this. Power washing is recommended (but test a small area for surface stability first).


A cleansing treatment for sand pits is recommended. A suitable disinfectant would be 250ml of domestic bleach mixed with 20 litres of water and apply to a depth of 25mm of the sand pit surface. This should be applied by watering can with a fine rose. The sand pit must then be irrigated to a depth of 100mm with clean water using a sprinkler attachment after bleaching. If excessive animal fouling occurs on bark and other timber loose-fill areas the affected area must be removed, disposed of and replaced. Where animal or human fouling occurs in enclosed play equipment a suitable disinfectant for treatment after faeces have been removed is normal household disinfectant diluted at the manufacturer’s recommended rate. Where animal or human fouling occurs on solid surfaces a suitable disinfectant for treatment after faeces have been removed is normal household disinfectant diluted at the manufacturers recommended rate.

Insects and Pest Control

If there is a clearly defined problem that poses a threat to public health and safety, such as the presence of a hornet’s hive, it may be necessary to consult with a specialist pest control company to deal with the problem.


Should spraying be necessary then a professional contractor with the appropriate pesticide certification should be used. It is not advised that untrained personnel use pesticides in public areas. More information can be found on the Health and Safety Executive website (

At all times best practice guidelines should be adhered to in order to minimize risks to the public. Information on best practice guidelines and how to ensure that pesticides are used lawfully can be found at (

If the use of a pesticide to treat a problem is unavoidable once all non chemical methods have been explored it is essential that clear signs are displayed around the area to be treated notifying the public of what is happening.

Prepared for RoSPA by The Pesticide Action Network UK

Contact Us

Playsafety Ltd *
+44 (0)1793 317470
[email protected]
Unit 78, Shrivenham Hundred Business Park, Watchfield, Swindon, SN6 8TY
* 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”.