Tag Archives: Standards

A real and present danger to play provision

I need to alert readers to a real and present danger.

Before proceeding, however, I enter a plea.  A plea that you stick with this article despite the fact that the subject may – until now – have been a turn-off.   I say again:  I am about to speak about a real and present danger.

The subject is play provision Standards, in this case a new Standard in respect of IAS (Impact Absorbing Surface) being proposed by ASTM’s (American Society for Testing and Materials) playground surfacing committee.

Do not imagine that any changes will affect only the USA.   Eventually, the likelihood is that they will affect Standards across national boundaries. Continue reading

Standards, regulations, guidelines and the muted voice

The recent visit to San Francisco/Berkeley gave me the opportunity to meet with like-minded and partially-like-minded people.    One issue in particular kept coming up and that is the way people felt hemmed in by standards, regulations, and notionally non-mandatory guidelines that in practice were treated as formal requirements .

This disaffection was not restricted to those responsible for play provision, but  was felt more widely.  If I had to sum up the general feeling as I encountered it, it is this: that in the USA the tendency was to over-prescribe the detail  of what may or may not be done in too many areas of endeavour.  The paradoxical effect  of this is to undermine the capacity of duty holders (I use the term loosely here to identify all those who have a formal role in decision-making, whether as professional or volunteer) to make informed judgments in the light of their ‘reading’ of the always particular, changing, situation-specific circumstances that they confront.  Instead of being able to exercise judgment, the pressure was to act as mechanicals, to follow a sort of universal script deemed to be suitable for all occasions.  In an odd, paradoxical  sort of way, the scripts – standards, regulations, guidelines – seemingly written to enhance best possible action and outcome in the real world, end up being other-worldly, conjuring the fiction that messy reality can be engineered into a pre-formed, one-size-fits-all template. 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 provision inspections: flaws and errors

In this article Bernard Spiegal discusses the role, scope and authority of external play provision inspections.  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.

Introduction

In the first article in this series – Play equipment standards: occasions of trespass – I argued that industry play equipment standards have been allowed to expand into territory not properly theirs, with damaging effect.   In making that case, I drew a distinction between what should be two distinct ‘territories’: one concerned with technical information and assessment – the legitimate purview of play equipment Standards; the other, the area where value-saturated judgments should hold sway, judgments to be made locally by the play provision provider.

In that article, I suggested that once the distinction was accepted there is a discussion to be had about where precisely the ‘boundary’ between the two territories should be drawn.  But the very notion of boundary is predicated on acceptance that there is territory available to be demarcated. I suspect there is some way to go before this is widely accepted. 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