Tag Archives: Risk

Reforming play equipment and surfacing Standards: a few thoughts

I think it fair to say that within the broad community of play advocates – play designers, landscape architects, play provision providers, pedagogues – play equipment and surfacing Standards have not been a hot topic of debate or contention. For some they were, and continue to be, a form of assurance as to the ‘safety’ of a product; and, in addition, they may even be taken as a proxy indicator of that quasi-mystical quality: play value.

For others, Standards in their current form are a source of bemusement, if not irritation, seen as impeding the possibility of creating rich and varied play environments.

But what this diverse constituency  has in common,  is the shared sense that play equipment and surface Standards descend as from on high, are created via processes and people they know not, but whose pronouncements  have the force and authority of Holy Writ, to be adhered to, but not questioned.

That was then. Now is now.  

‘Now’ is marked by the steady growth, and the coming together, of a diverse  constituency of pedagogues, play advocates, academics, designers, individuals from within Standard-making bodies, all seized of the need to examine Standards, how they are formulated, who formulates them, their scope and their practical consequences ‘on the ground’.   And this constituency is growing. Continue reading

Reflection on court finding no negligence in injury at play claim

Attention has rightly been drawn to a recent British Columbia (Canada) Supreme Court Judgment that, whilst not serving as precedent in other jurisdictions, is both interesting and useful.  You can read the judgment here.

In brief, the civil law case – brought under British Columbia Occupiers Liability Act 1996 – focuses on a negligence claim against the District of Saanich by, at the time of the incident, an 11 year old child (represented by a litigation guardian) who was injured as the result of falling during a ‘tag’ game – known locally as ‘grounders’ – from one level of a play equipment’s platform to another.  The incident occurred during a day camp taking place on a school playground, though not a school project.  The day camp provision was supervised.

I recommend that those concerned with risk, liability, negligence and related issues in respect of play (and more widely, leisure and sports) read the judgment in its entirety.  It is not a long document, and the court’s line of thinking that led it to dismiss the negligence claim is clearly spelled out.  I was intrigued by one aspect of the judgment, and that’s what prompts me to write this piece.  But more of that anon. Continue reading

American musings: Handbooks, standards, and over-regulation

I thought I’d give this blog an American slant since I’m here in the San Francisco area talking about, well, risk, standards, parks, (over) anxious parents – that sort of thing.  

I’m here courtesy of the efforts of Lisa Howard and Sharon Danks, both of Bay Tree Design and the International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA), a grouping that is slowly extending its reach and gathering its strength.  Long in the preparation, and cooked slow for added succulence, the developing international alliance draws on, and contributes to, the expanding knowledge-base – both theoretical and practical – of the benefits and challenges involved in greening school grounds.  A  key component of its belief system is that school grounds are for the community as a whole, and not to be treated as sequestered enclaves for school use alone.   (PLAYLINK declares an interest here, it is one of the founder members, but credit for ISGA’s  conception and its activities, belong elsewhere).

Public Playground Safety Handbook

In preparation for this trip, I took a look at the what appears to be the bible for American playgrounds, the ‘Public Playground Safety Handbook’, published by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.  Here in California it is effectively mandatory to adhere to its provisions for all projects involving public money –  this effectively captures, for example, most schools, parks and public playgrounds.

Sophisticated readers, and adepts in the language of play and risk, will almost certainly have given an  involuntary start on seeing the word ‘safety’ in the handbook’s title.

Continue reading

Structural imbalance: Public good and the play equipment industry

Public good, industry, and providing for play

A ‘structural imbalance’  has been allowed to develop such that what constitutes public benefit in respect of  children and teenagers’ play has been distorted by an overly influential play equipment industry.   This article discusses industry, understood as commercial enterprise, and where decision-making about public benefit should be located.  It is argued that, currently and for too long, public benefit decisions about play provision have been dislodged from their proper location – for example, publicly accountable bodies- to be captured by sectional interests.  It is further argued that little blame attaches to industry, but that play provision providers have not fulfilled their responsibilities. Continue reading

Play equipment standards: occasions of trespass

In this article Bernard Spiegal discusses the role, scope and authority of play equipment standards.  The article is one of a number of papers, comments, blogs, presentations and articles being generated by members of The York Group.

The York Group, comprising  Professor David Ball, Tim Gill, Harry Harbottle, Bernard Spiegal, has come together to contribute to thinking about risk and play equipment Standards.   The York Group will also be publishing jointly authored papers.

Responsibility for the views expressed in this article is the author’s.   The article does, however, introduce some key lines of argument for the group, to be explored further in both its individual and joint papers.

Standards: the strong distinction

The overarching purpose of this article is to initiate a process of emancipation.  To liberate occupied territory – the too large terrain that play equipment standards occupy – thereby freeing play providers to make their own judgments about where, in their provision[1], the balance between risk and benefit lies.

In what follows I want first to establish what I shall call a ‘strong distinction’, one that marks clearly conceptual distinctions in respect of the role, scope and authority of play equipment standards.  These distinctions have for too long been allowed to remain blurred and confused. Continue reading