Make your play area safe, warns insurer

Corporate insurer NFU Mutual is reminding businesses to get safe for summer, as it reports receiving an average of 100 claims each year – almost two per week – involving injury to children at commercial properties such as pub garden play areas, with the potential for hundreds more minor injuries to go unreported. 

The specialist commercial insurer’s analysis of claims involving child injury has shown the most common injuries to be broken bones or cuts from falls, including tumbles from climbing frames, slides, trampolines, bouncy castles, rides and monkey bars. Other claims included impacts from objects including poles and goal posts, and slips and trips into planters, barbed wire, stages, other children and even lamas, prompting the insurer’s reminder to businesses to be vigilant in ensuring that their outdoor areas are safe.
With the Easter holiday weekend imminent and the first signs of summer starting to appear, many hospitality businesses that are not in the traditional visitor attraction market will find themselves welcoming families through outdoor activities.
Darren Seward, hospitality sector specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “The potential harm to a business at fault for an injured child is an obvious one, with reputation at risk and the potential for a claim for compensation alongside the upset of the situation. Pubs, garden centres, community clubs and more will begin to ramp up the open-air festivities from this month, and with increased numbers of guests to consider, health and safety should be front of mind. We receive around 100 claims for injured children in commercial properties each year, that’s two per week, and the number of more minor injuries or unreported injuries is likely to be much higher.
“Some businesses may not be as well-equipped in staffing, training or health and safety practices as bigger visitor attractions to ensure the safety of children’s equipment, but steps can be taken to help reduce needless harm. A professional play inspector should carry out full routine inspections and provide their report, but simple steps such as conducting daily maintenance on play areas by checking for foreign objects, damage or vandalism could also save a child from hurting themselves. Recording evidence of checks is also essential for any business to use in the event of a claim against them. Of course, parents also have a duty to keep watch of their children.
“It’s not just injuries that businesses should consider but also the potential damage to private property. We’ve even seen cases of boards and gazebo’s taking flight and damaging guests cars, so great care and thought needs to be taken into account when prepping and mitigating risk for any event.”
The firm has come up with a list of tips to avoid accidents :
  • Survey the public areas of the premises with a “child’s eye” and make sure “staff only” areas are secured / well-signposted, winter maintenance tasks are completed or made safe and maintenance equipment put away.
  • Check all public areas for obvious slip or trip hazards, e.g. moss and uneven paving; check any outdoor furniture as it is put out for the season ahead.
  • Check that any safety information signs are still present and clear, e.g. “parents must supervise their children in this area”.
  • Make sure play equipment is properly maintained and inspected – there are professional play inspectors available through the Register of Play Inspectors International.
  • If external providers are being used to help attract families, e.g. inflatable bouncy castle provider, undertake suitable checks to verify their credibility and request copies of relevant documentation, e.g. insurance and play inflatable inspection certificates.
  • Brief the staff on the need to be vigilant for children running around during food and drinks service, to pay particular attention to items which are damaged or faulty and not to be afraid to intervene if a child’s behaviour is either unsafe or spoiling other people’s enjoyment, particularly in play areas.
  • It may be a useful time to check first aid provision within the company both in terms of first aid kits and trained staff.
  • Carefully consider any particular activities being organised for children and families, e.g. outdoor activities, and put sensible precautions in place.
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