Inspire : Public Works Jan Feb 2014
24 Public Works Professional January-February 2014 The recent tragic death of a six-year-old boy when a slide fell on him in a playground at Farrell Flat, South Australia, is a timely reminder of the important role that inspection and maintenance play in reducing the likelihood and severity of injuries in local government-owned assets. Humans have an extraordinary capacity to ignore risks that occur infrequently, as though this will make them go away. Was the maintenance failure at Farrell Flat bad luck, or an early warning of a more systemic problem and a wake-up call? The Australian Standard that specifes the inspection, maintenance and operation of playgrounds and playground equipment is AS/NZS 4486.1. The court views inspection and maintenance practices recommended within this Standard as minimum best practice, should an accident occur. The Standard states that a competent person shall carry out all inspection and maintenance in accordance with the manufacturer's instr uctions. Ideally, trained personnel who are on the Register of Playground Inspectors Australia would conduct these inspections. People on the Register have all met the minimum competency requirements of the University of Technology, Sydney for the level of playground inspection indicated. THREE LEVELS OF INSPECTION Level 1 Routine Inspection A visual inspection aimed at identifying obvious hazards. These can result from vandalism, use or weather conditions. Routine inspections may be carried out daily or weekly depending on use, and would include raking the sand or bark mulch. Trained maintenance staff can carry out this inspection and make a simple record of their fndings. It may also be part of their job to clean the area and remove litter. THOUGHT LEADERS DR DAVID EAGER ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UTS: ENGINEERING Humans have an extraordinary capacity to ignore risks that occur infrequently, as though this will make them go away. Level 2 Operational Inspection A more detailed inspection, used to check on equipment operation. The Level 2 Operational Inspection should be conducted monthly to quarterly, depending on usage, and/or as indicated by the manufacturer. Inspectors should keep records of all inspections. Some may carry tools and replacement parts to conduct repairs during the inspection. Level 3 Annual Inspection The playground Standard requires a competent inspector to conduct Annual Inspections and submit a report. This work is specialised and requires extensive experience at a professional level. These inspections should be conducted by personnel who are Level 3 Comprehensive Inspector-qualifed. In most cases, an experienced third party who has met the requirements of the UTS competency standard for playground inspectors conducts the Inspection. To avoid potential confict of interest, it is recommended that the inspection be independent of the playground provider, designer, manufacturer and installer. Councils are required to prepare fnancial reports in accordance with Australian Accounting Standard 27 that include an estimate of the amount of money required to bring their assets up to a satisfactory standard and provide an estimate of the annual expense for maintaining the asset at that standard. It is diffcult to imagine how a council can comply with these requirements without conducting regular playground inspections. ••• Dr David Eager is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Technology, Sydney. He is the Chairperson of several Australian Standards Com mittees including Children's Playground Equipment and Surfacing CS-005. SAFETY FIRST Internationally recognised playground safety expert David Eager reminds local government asset managers of the importance of compliant playground inspection and maintenance.
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