The standard EN 1176 has been in existence since 1998 and requires that all playground equipment intended for use in public areas meet certain requirements. This standard has adopted the play equipment safety principles, provided by the previously existing German Standard, DIN 7926. The standard UNI EN 1176, with the latest revision in 2018, includes a number of new requirements such as compliance with stricter requirements for impact areas, a series of information that the manufacturer/distributor must provide at the time of the quotation (e.g. minimum space around equipment, the characteristics and extension of the surface, fall height, etc.) and the basic activities that must be carried out for inspection and maintenance of play equipment, etc. It is clear that 100% safety for play areas will never be achieved and a certain danger always remains, despite all the measures that the operator can take to make the equipment as safe as possible. At any rate, since these standards came into force, the number of playground injuries has dropped to an acceptable level. Occasionally accidents, sometimes serious, do happen due to lack of proper maintenance or because inspections were performed by incompetent personnel. It is the inspector's/maintenance technician's job to eliminate all risks that are unknown to the user, such as components affected by rotting, protruding objects, possible risks of finger, head or body entrapments , worn parts, dangerous impact areas, etc.
Please note that UNI EN 1176 is not a legal requirement, but it does clearly define all technical rules to be followed for the construction and installation of playground equipment and the minimum measures for inspection and maintenance of this equipment. Compliance with these requirements protects the manufacturer and operator of a playground, also in the event of an accident.
What things do you need to pay attention to when buying?
The standard requires that the customer receive information on the safety area, fall heights, assembly instructions, etc. at the time of the quotation.
It is important to pay close attention to the extension of the fall area and the possible need to use anti-shock flooring, which is sometimes mandatory.
All play equipment in a public area must be properly identified with details on the manufacturer/distributor, year of manufacturer, number and year of the standard in force, and the product code. The label will be able to give the operator/user increased certainty that the equipment meets specific requirements; it will also make it possible to trace the type of play equipment supplied, also for the supply of any replacement parts.
We would like to remind you that the standard UNI EN 71-8, regulates activity toys intended exclusively for domestic use; normally, these activity toys are available at home improvement centres and should not be installed in public areas such as schools, kindergartens, etc.
All play equipment placed in a playground must be accompanied by an inspection/maintenance manual. Installation should be attested by a certificate of correct installation. It is important to bear in mind that even play equipment manufactured in compliance with the standard may create hazards (for example when safety clearances are not complied with during installation, or if suitable anti-shock flooring is not provided, when the equipment is poorly assembled with possible dangerous openings, etc.).
Does play equipment need to be approved?
TÜV approval for playground structures is not mandatory, but must comply with current regulations on the construction of play equipment and testing products intended for use in public playgrounds, i.e. UNI EN 1176:2018. In general, almost all manufacturers hold appropriate certification of their play equipment (especially mass-produced equipment), which ensures that the equipment is in conformity with the above standard. TÜV checks consistency and compliance with all requirements of the standard and provides the GS mark (Geprüfte Sicherheit – Tested safety).
It often happens that some equipment is manufactured according to specific customer requests, perhaps with alternative materials such as Robinia wood which, due to its very irregular structure, is not suited to be certified as a standard product; the dimensions of the various pieces of wood vary in form and in size, therefore it would be impossible to ensure standard dimensions. In this case, the customer can have a declaration issued by the manufacturer attesting that the structure was constructed in compliance with standard UNI EN 1176:2018; alternatively, there is always the possibility for the customer to contact TÜV directly to independently certify the playground.
Who is responsible for a playground?
The operator is responsible for the play equipment after it has been installed and the playground has been opened to the public. The operator is required to check the equipment in the playground, to keep it in safe and good working order, and to eliminate any faults. In case of accidents, the playground operator may take action against the manufacturer only for "construction" errors and not for lack of maintenance.
The "operator" is classified as the person responsible for play equipment or a playground with "unrestricted public access", such as those found at public parks, camping grounds, hotels, apartment buildings, kindergartens, schools, etc.
What does a public playground operator need to do?
Standard UNI EN 1176-7:2018 requires that playgrounds with "unrestricted access" be periodically inspected and subject to routine maintenance. Three types of inspections are provided for:
"routine visual inspection": recommended every 1-7 days, this inspection enables the identification of obvious hazards that can result from normal use, vandalism or weather conditions.
"operational inspection": a more detailed inspection that should be performed every 1 to 3 months to check the operation and stability of the equipment, especially for wear.
"annual main inspection": carried out to establish the overall level of safety of the equipment and compliance with the relevant standards UNI EN 1176 1-6:2018.
The competence of the staff and the frequency of playground inspections must correspond to the potential hazard and usage of the structures.
Who can carry out the inspections?
In reality, there is no special registry that lists the names of authorised persons. However, the operator is required to appoint only people who have an appropriate level of competence.
To perform visual and operational inspections it may be sufficient to follow the manufacturer's instructions (maintenance manual) and have received training from a qualified person (e.g. a person who performs annual main inspections on a regular basis). For larger playgrounds it is advisable to take part in specific training courses, which may last for even just one day, organised by accredited organisations such as: TÜV SÜD ITALIA
/ TÜV RHEINLAND
The annual main inspection
To perform the annual main inspection requires in-depth knowledge of the standard UNI EN 1176:2018 and appropriate practical experience.
To assess the competence of an inspector appointed to carry out the main inspections, it is a good idea to ask them to submit certificates of attendance to specific courses on playground safety according to UNI EN 1176:2018; it is preferable that they can also provide proof that they have passed any learning assessment tests and that any past inspection reports can be verified.
The documentation regarding the annual inspection should be complete with a description of any non-conformity and should report the possible solutions to fix the fault found; all of this should be accompanied by detailed photographs.
As far as any construction defects of the equipment is concerned, the inspector should indicate on the inspection report reference to the relevant clause of standard UNI EN 1176:2018 with images, if any, and report any relevant text in the standard so that the operator can be sure to not dispose of or adapt structures which actually are in compliance with the standard.
An inspector who works in a professional manner is able to guarantee his/her work through insurance policy that covers any damage that could result from inspection or maintenance errors; this also provides protection for the playground operator in case of accidents due to inspection errors.
At any rate, the most important aspect to keep in mind when choosing an inspector/maintenance technician is his/her competence, rather than the economic benefits. This will contribute to children's safety and provide greater protection in case of an accident.
Test equipment for main inspection
UNI EN 1176-7:2018 also provides for the storage of all documentation concerning inspections/periodic maintenance work.
Documentation should be retained for a period of 3 to 6 years and this can also be in electronic form. It is advisable to use specific folders to file the various documents such as play equipment certificates, staff training activities, inspection/maintenance reports, inspection manuals, etc. It is crucial to use a schedule that provides a summary of the various types of planned inspections, with details on the name of the persons responsible and those appointed to perform the work.
Recommendations for the management of public playgrounds in accordance with UNI EN 1176:2018