DUTY OF CARE IN THE PLAYGROUND
As a caregiver, whilst any child is under your supervision in a playground environment, common law imposes a duty of care upon you to provide adequate supervision and safe and suitable premises and equipment. In other words, you should take any reasonable steps to protect the child against risk or injury, which you should reasonably have foreseen.
YOUR STATUTORY OBLIGATIONS
In Queensland, the Workplace Health Safety Act 1995, Pt. 3 is to 'prevent death, injury or illness being caused by a workplace, by a relevant workplace area, by work activities, or by plant or substances for use at the workplace'. (See Section 7 (1) of the WHS Act. Note that playground equipment is an example of 'plant').
You can minimise the potential for an incident to occur if you:
- Ensure that your playground complies with the relevant Australian Standards as a minimum
- Incorporate methods of good practice in routine maintenance and inspections
- Ensure effective maintenance is carried out
- Keep well-documented records of all maintenance
SUPERVISOR'S AND CAREGIVER'S RESPONSIBILITIES:
- To be aware of all foreseeable hazards in the playground for which you are responsible, and in any procedures which you or the children may carry out in the playground
- You should inform the children of the hazards and the precautions to be taken to minimise the associated risk
- Ensure that children carry out all the precautions
- Be able to confidently carry out an emergency procedure in accordance with the policy and regulations of the supervisor or caregiver's organisation
(adapted from Planned Play Areas (1991), with permission of publisher Queensland Department of Education)
The design, construction and maintenance of your playground should meet the relevant Australian Standards. The Standards provide sample checklists, and the minimum requirements for design, construction and maintenance of playground equipment and surfacing. Accurate written records of all inspection and maintenance procedures are essential. These records should be completed and maintained permanently because of the length of time that can elapse before a claim can be made against the owner of a playground.
In Queensland, child care services (home based or centre based) that provide child care for seven children or more are required to be licensed and meet the standards prescribed in the Child Care Act 2002 and Child Care Regulation 2003. These standards are administered by the Queensland Department of Communities and are intended to ensure the provision of quality care for children.