Managing Risk in Play Provision

“One thing kids never lack is imagination to invent their own games with the simplest of props. Obviously if a child is playing with a jagged edge on a tin container there is a risk of injury, but we would hope parents manage that risk. HSE has always encouraged children to learn through play, whether climbing trees, painting with their hands or throwing stones into a lake, we want children to enjoy life and all the experiences it brings.”
Health & Safety Executive

Children’s Play Safety Forum – Statement
Lead in paint on children’s playgrounds

The Play Safety Forum supports that providers and maintainers of Children’s Playground facilities always work to the latest published guidance for the lead content of the surface coatings, which currently only allows lead as a trace element of paint. This guidance has been updated periodically over the last 30 years and also rightly focuses on articles that children can place into their mouths, as being the highest risk.

We are however concerned at this latest media coverage, as it appears to be focusing solely on a scare agenda, rather than presenting specific facts that are put in full context with different expert opinion.

What is more, from the summary of this research, it appears that the researchers are following a purely ‘hazard-based approach.’ That is, they have identified a hazard. But they have not even attempted to assess the risk which inter alia would require an estimation of how much of this hazardous material gets into children’s bodies by ingestion, dermal contact or inhalation. Our society is a ‘risk-based’ society. It’s the only realistic option in a rational world which, amongst other things, cares about children.

In our experience ‘scare stories’ generally lead to reactions that are disproportionate to the risk on which they are based and are usually regretted in the fullness of time. We have previously battled against ‘urban myths’ that once established can be very difficult to re-adjust. The Play Safety Forum is constantly looking at the balance between risks and benefits in Children’s Play. It would be a great pity if the effects of this scare story was to unnecessarily deflect attention from the many other challenges we are currently facing.

We were pleased to note some common sense advice published on the NHS Choices web site. ‘The best way to prevent your child being exposed to lead is to encourage them to always wash their hands after outside play and before eating. Regularly washing any of their toys or equipment they play with outside should also help.’

September 2016

Dynamic Risk Benefit Assessment: Play Safety Forum position statement

Preface from Robin Sutcliffe, PSF Chair:

Risk Benefit Assessment (RBA) in situations where staff are supervising or playing with children in real time was not covered in detail in Managing Risk in Play Provision: Implementation Guide. The PSF have been discussing this over the past two years, during which we considered several policies that were already in existence, however we felt that these were too specific to their own practitioners. Consequently we would now like to offer the following text to cover this omission, which should be read in conjunction with the guide.  Full Statement: Dynamic Risk Benefit Assessment, Play Safety Forum Position


A small but potentially significant win for risk benefit assessment, Blog by Tim Gill

How often do you hear that the ‘health and safety culture’ cannot be resisted? That fear of litigation makes people unwilling to accept the slightest possibility of accidents or injuries? The implication is that risk benefit assessment (RBA) – the balanced approach to risk management that I and others have developed – is a waste of time.  Full article here 


Scotland’s care regulator encourages a positive approach to risk in play

The Care Inspectorate is showing its support for nurseries, childminders and other early years care services that take a positive approach to risk, by setting out its position on regulating for risk in play.  It is launching its new position statement today, with the support of Play Scotland at their event Playing with risk: embracing the benefits with positive regulation.  Full details here

Managing Risk in Play Provision: implementation guide (2nd edition)


“Children need and want to take risks when they play”
MRPP Position Statement


Play Scotland sits on the UK Play Safety Forum (PSF).  The Forum has produced a guide Managing Risk in Play Provision to help strike a balance between the risks and the benefits of offering children challenging play opportunities.

This implementation guide shows how play providers can replace current risk assessment practice with an approach that fully takes into account the benefits to children and young people of challenging play experiences. The document’s overall approach will be useful for those who manage spaces and settings in which children play, and for those involved in designing and maintaining them.

The managing risk in play provision implementation guide builds on the Play Safety Forum’s position statement Managing Risk in Play Provision Position Statement  (Play Safety Forum, 2002). It starts from the principle that ultimate responsibility for making decisions rests with the provider, although outside expertise and advice is always valuable.

This second edition of the guide was written by David Ball, Tim Gill and Bernard Spiegal.

Managing Risk in Play Provision implementation guide 2nd edition

New tools for Risk-Benefit Assessment – November 2014

The new tools are designed to support a balanced approach to risk management using the process of risk-benefit assessment (RBA). It is aimed at those involved in providing play opportunities in a range of contexts, including play areas, public parks, green spaces, out-of-school childcare settings, playwork settings, schools and early years services. It builds on the guidance document Managing Risk in Play Provision implementation guide 2nd edition, published in 2013 by the Play Safety Forum with Play England, Play Wales, Play Scotland and PlayBoard Northern Ireland.

Those using this form should focus on the significant risks that the play provision gives rise to The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines significant risks as those that go beyond everyday life and that “are capable of creating a real risk to health and safety which any reasonable person would appreciate and would take steps to guard against.”

This form is available in two formats: Word 2007 (with a blank form) and pdf (with a worked example)

Risk Benefit Assessment Form (word document)

Risk Benefit Assessment Form Worked Example