Closure of King George V Playground

The Parish Council is appreciative of the interest shown by parishioners and others in the re-opening of the King George V Playground. The government permitted owners/managers of children’s playgrounds to open on 4 July 2020 provided that a full Risk Assessment was undertaken which showed how they could minimize the risks. Sonning Parish Council duly undertook a Risk Assessment and concluded that they were unable provide the level of protection that children and others need and deserved. In part this was due to the large amount of metal equipment in the playground. It was agreed that the measures suggested were beyond the parish council’s ability to provide and they were not confident that parents would clean the equipment each time their child used it or that instructions on notices would be observed.An update dated 3 August has done nothing to change the parish council’s view.

Listed below are the many suggested measure to provide a safe environment for children to play in. The items highlighted in red indicate where the Council feel’s unable to provide the required level of protection

LINK to the full version of the government recommendations.

Potential measures to facilitate social distancing include:

  • if an enclosed area, owners and operators should identify an advisory limit on the maximum number of users able to use a playground
  • where practicable, owners/operators could implement a booking system so that users can book a slot to use the equipment
  • limiting the number of users able to use a particular piece of equipment to minimise the transmission risk of COVID-19. Potential measures include:
    • signs to communicate maximum number of users at one time
    • request those using the play area to only have 1 family member accompanying a child
    • limiting the available number of seats on equipment or numbers of swings available to promote social distancing, including for parents, carers or guardians who might push children on swings for example:
      • setting a time limit and using signs to communicate this to users, parents, guardians or carers
      • using adjacent space for queues or waiting areas for users, parents, guardians and carers using barriers, markings or signs where it is safe to do so. When implementing a queue or waiting area, consideration must be taken of its impact on the surrounding space and ensure it does not impede other users or pedestrians, particularly considering those with visual or hearing impairments, mobility problems and invisible disabilities

Cleaning and hygiene

Scientific advice suggests that the virus can survive for up to several days on some hard surfaces, particularly when indoors. These risks are reduced when outdoors, where surfaces may be subject to UV light and/or rain. This guidance applies to outdoor playgrounds and outdoor gyms but the virus could survive long enough on frequently used/touched outdoor surfaces to facilitate transmission.

Owners and operators are advised to manage any potential risk, cleaning high traffic touch points frequently. This could include cleaning regimes for:

  • playground equipment for children, usually up to age 14, such as slides monkey bars and climbing frames
  • semi enclosed playhouses or huts for small children
  • enclosed crawl through ‘tunnels’ or tube slides
  • entry and exit points such as gates
  • seating areas such as benches and picnic tables
  • refuse areas/bins

Owners and operators should encourage effective sanitation by users, parents, guardians and carers. To support effective waste management, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has published guidance on waste disposal in non-healthcare settings.

Consideration should be given to:

  • using signs and posters:
    • to promote cleaning of equipment by users, parents, guardians and carers, particularly where there are clear touch points such as swing rockers, see saws, machine handles or exercise bars
    • encouraging parents to bring hand sanitiser gel or wipes to clean their children’s hands
    • to encourage hand hygiene with including washing/sanitising hands more often than usual, for 20 seconds using soap and water or approved gel and foam sanitiser, particularly at the beginning and end of play
    • to advise users (or parents of users) not to touch their faces, and to cough or sneeze into a tissue or arm when a tissue is not available
    • to remind adults and children not to put their mouths on equipment or their hands in their mouths
    • to promote and remind users, parents, guardians and carers of the need for social distancing
    • to remind users to dispose of used face coverings and PPE properly in a ‘black bag’ waste bin or litter bin, and not to put into recycling bins
    • when communicating safety messages owners/operators should ensure they are able to reach those with hearing or vision impairments. Consideration should also be given on how to assist those with disabilities with complying with the changes
  • providing more waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collection
  • where practicable, providing hand sanitiser (automated where possible) or hand washing facilities at the entry and exit points, in addition to public toilets/washrooms
  • using disposable paper towels in handwashing facilities where possible

Additional measures and communicating with parents

Additional measures that can minimise the risk COVID-19 transmission in playgrounds and outdoor gyms focus on promoting responsible behaviour by children, parents, carers and guardians.

For example, owners and operators should consider putting up signs to make clear to users, parents, guardians and carers that:

  • consumption of food or drink on play equipment or in the playground area is banned
  • parents, guardians or carers should dispose of all litter including any used protective wear such as face coverings or gloves properly in litter bins, taking it home where a bin is not provided. People should dispose of face coverings and PPE in a ‘black bag’ waste bin or litter bin. Face coverings or PPE should not be put in a recycling bin.

Owners and operators should provide clear information to parents to set clear expectations about how children should behave when using playgrounds during COVID-19. This may be through one or more of: signs adjacent to the playground, online (e.g. operator websites or community message boards), or through leafletting.

Owners and operators may wish to consider reminding parents of the owner/operator’s legal obligations towards the playground users such as signs stating that allowing children to use playground equipment is done at their own risk where appropriate.