Gates and access to play and wheeled sports areas
Good and safe access to play and wheeled sports areas is essential. Consideration should be given to the following:-
It should be recognised that even in the best regulated area accidents can occur and therefore access for emergency vehicles is essential. An ambulance requires an opening of at least 2.15m and ideally an ambulance should be able to get right up to the area. This may require a hard standing access where ground is otherwise unsuitable in wet conditions. Where access is normally locked it is essential that the local emergency services (fire and ambulance) are consulted on emergency access arrangements.
A Trolley Bed (as carried in ambulances) can be used where a vehicle cannot get right up to the area. However this unit weighs around 58 kilos unloaded. If it cannot be pushed to the area because of the ground conditions, (it can manage a hard standing footpath minimum of 1m wide) then delays may occur whilst a second emergency team is sent to the site to provide the required manpower to lift the bed and patient. It may also be necessary to provide ramps where obstructions may hinder the progress of the bed.
The Disability Discrimination Act requires reasonable provision fro disabled people. This means that not only should gates be suitable for wheelchairs but also that these should be able to get to the play area unhindered (ie hard standing paths etc)
Gates and grids
Fencing and associated gates, animal grids etc are only necessary where there is either a need to prevent children straying away from the area into a hazardous location or to keep dogs out. There may also be occasions where fencing (see Information Sheet 20) and gates are necessary where motorcycles etc are being brought into the area.
The position of gates is important. Firstly consider the direction from which children will normally approach the area. (They are reluctant to "detour" and if there is not a conveniently positioned gate climb over the fence). Often wear patterns on the grass indicate the most popular routes of approach. Where possible don't have gates directly onto a hazard such as a road or open water. Sloping ground should be avoided if possible. It is also important that gates are positioned in such a way as not to create a movement clash. It is surprising how often the only way to and from a gate is, for instance, across the arc of swing of swing seats.
Gates and grids should be a minimum of 1m open width to allow passage of wheelchairs and any grid should be positioned so that the bars do not hinder the passage of wheelchairs or pushchairs etc.
Gates should normally open outwards except where opening outwards may cause a hazard to others (i.e. opening into the path of pedestrians/cyclist etc). This is because dogs find it easier to push a gate than pull it and therefore can access a gate opening inwards much more easily. The gate should ideally not close quicker than 5 seconds to make wheelchair access easier and also to prevent it striking the back of a child walking through.
The use of self-closing mechanism is strongly recommended to maintain the gate in a closed position. Mechanism can vary from a simple spring to offset hinges. Recently several manufacturers have brought out gates with internal self-closing mechanism. Whilst more expensive, these gates are normally maintenance free, and their rate of closing etc can be easily regulated.
Maintenance gates should be sufficiently wide to allow for all likely machinery but they should be kept locked when not in use.
Where "kissing gates" or similar are used it is essential that these allow the passage of a wheelchair and also if these are the sole means of access to the playing field/play area they should not inhibit the use of an ambulance trolley bed.
It is worth considering the positioning of seats within the area to assist on supervision of gates. Seats positioned adjacent to, or directly facing, gates make it easier for parents with more than one child to see if one of them is "straying" from the area.
It is important that there are no finger or hand traps and shear points. This means that there should be a minimum gap of 12mm between the gate and the posts etc, both sides of the gate. This minimum gap should be maintained throughout the full range of movement of the gate throughout its full arc. Where the gaps reduce to less than 12 mm these have been known to cause serious, permanent injury to children, especially on the hinge side where the leverage forces are significant.
On existing gates it may only be possible to do this by providing a stop plate on the gate which closes onto a rubber stop at least 12mm thick. (A standard rubber door-stop works very well). The stop should be at least 700mm from the ground.
A clearance of between 60mm and 110mm should be maintained beneath the gate to reduce foot injuries. Ground should be level to prevent this gap closing through the range of movement. Hard standing at least 1m each side of the gate is recommended to prevent ground wear and thus trip hazards.
Gates should ideally be of a different colour to the fencing to make their location easily identifiable to those with visual impairment.
There should be no sharp edges and fixings and all edges should be a minimum of 3mm radius.
Gate latches if present should be able to be operated from both sides of the gate and any catch should ideally not project more than 25mm. Any projecting bars for catches should ideally be mushroomed at the end (These are normally at eye height for a small child)
If the gate has high mass there should be a closing mechanism that prevents it slamming into the back of a child passing through (see closing time above)
High mass gates will require extra strong hinge and slam posts. They will also require heavy-duty hinges etc.
Dog grids should be secured in place (it is surprising what a group of small children can lift). However it should be possible, using special tools, to be able to occasionally access the area under the grid for cleaning purposes.
Research suggests that most physical and sexual abuse of children is by other children. RoSPA recommend the provision of a minimum of two gates to reduce risks (one dominant child cannot easily block two gates – there is always an escape route).