Child safety experts welcome ‘game-changing’ new international benchmark that gives a green light to more adventurous play

A ground breaking new global industry benchmark that takes a ‘benefit-risk’ approach to safety is welcomed by the UK Play Safety Forum, a group of leading experts which supported the drafting of the document.

Instead of focusing solely on risk reduction, the benchmark says that councils, businesses, and others should take a balanced approach to safety in playgrounds and other leisure facilities. Crucially, they should consider the benefits of allowing a degree of risk and challenge.

‘Benefit-risk assessment for sports and recreational facilities, activities and equipment’ – Standard 4980:2023 from the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) – is a globally recognised standard for anyone that runs leisure and recreation facilities and programmes, including playgrounds.

Tim Gill, Chair of the UK Play Safety Forum, said: “this new safety standard is a game-changing move for children, who have been losing out for far too long because of misplaced adult fears and anxieties.”

Marguerite Hunter Blair, CEO of Play Scotland, is delighted, “this new safety standard underpins the culture change we seek in society, it unwraps the cotton wool approach to children at play and puts the focus firmly on the benefits of challenging and adventurous play opportunities.”

Andy Yates, technical director of Hags UK and chair of both British and European playground safety standards committees, said, “children of all ages and abilities actively seek out risky situations in their play. The ISO standard gives guidance about how these risks are judged, hand in hand with the benefits they provide. This should give playground operators further confidence to create the exciting, engaging play spaces that children want, need and deserve.”

Prof David Ball of Middlesex University, one of the experts on the ISO working group, said: “this ISO standard builds on a decades-long shift towards more balanced, thoughtful risk management. The Play Safety Forum first put forward risk benefit approaches in 2008, and they have been supported by the Health and Safety Executive – the UK’s overarching safety regulator – since 2012. With this new ISO standard, the rest of the world is set to follow suit.”