Ensuring safety in public playgrounds is everybody’s business

Ruth A Barker, David Eager and Lisa N Sharwood
Med J Aust 2019; 210 (1): . || doi: 10.5694/mja18.00549
Published online: 29 October 2018

Children need outdoor play but safety standards alone will never prevent all injuries; robust data are required to guide risk minimisation strategies

When an injury occurs in a children’s playground, who is responsible? Media headlines1,2 have highlighted risks associated with a recently opened playground in north-western Sydney. The playground’s giant tube slide was closed following a spate of injuries to both adult and child patrons. With injuries described as “horrific”, the media questioned “how the 30 m long, 14 m tall slide passed safety rules”.1 While playground injuries are fairly common,3 there are specific multilevel responsibilities required to balance the importance of play and physical activity with mitigation of injury risk. In this article, we review the role of standards in industry governance and injury prevention.

  • 1 Queensland Injury Surveillance Unit, Brisbane, QLD
  • 2 University of Technology Sydney, Sydney, NSW
  • 3 University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW


Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.

  • 1. Pike B. Safety standards blamed for 30 m slide’s shocking injury toll. Sunday Telegraph 2018; 6 May.
  • 2. Hamilton-Irvine G. Hilltop Park slide closed following ‘horrific’ injuries. Hills Shire Times 2018; 4 May.
  • 3. Bierbaum M, Curtis K, Mitchell R. Incidence and cost of hospitalisation of children with injuries from playground equipment falls, in New South Wales, Australia. J Paediatr Child Health 2018; 54: 556-562.
  • 4. Standards Australia. AS 4685.0:2017 Playground equipment and surfacing – Part 0: Development, installation, inspection, maintenance and operation. Sydney: Standards Australia, 2017. (viewed Sept 2018).
  • 5. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Australian product safety system. (viewed July 2018).
  • 6. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Mandatory standards. (viewed July 2018).
  • 7. International Organization for Standardization. ISO/IEC Guide 50:2014 Safety aspects – Guidelines for child safety in standards and other specifications. (viewed July 2018).
  • 8. International Organization for Standardization. ISO/IEC Guide 51:2014 Safety aspects – Guidelines for their inclusion in standards. (viewed July 2018).
  • 9. Saluja G, Brenner R, Morrongiello B, et al. The role of supervision in child injury risk: definition, conceptual and measurement issues. Inj Control Saf Promot 2004; 11: 17-22.
  • 10. Brussoni M, Olsen L, Pike I, Sleet D. Risky play and children’s safety: balancing priorities for optimal child development. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2012; 9: 3134-3148.


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