School playgrounds and sports: putting safety and quality first
Is the school playground really a safe place for playing sports? Let's take a closer look at the requirements for ensuring safety and quality in outdoor school sports facilities.
Schools often have an outdoor area for physical education, outdoor sports activities or as a space to host pupils during breaks and afternoon classes. These outdoor recreational spaces, which can be simple courtyards or actual multi-purpose sports facilities, are part of the school complex and, therefore, must provide students with the appropriate level of safety and quality, as required by various national regulations. In this article we will explore further the main aspects to consider when talking about safety in school playgrounds and outdoor sports facilities.
What are the key aspects concerning the safety of an outdoor sports area?
When designing or redesigning an outdoor sports area in a school context, it is essential to take certain aspects into account:
- observance of an adequate floor plan of the area, to avoid unevenness or defects that may constitute a risk in terms of young athletes and students falling over;
- Correct slopes for proper drainage and runoff of rainwater and to avoid surface stagnation, which is dangerous for users and damaging to the flooring. Drainage channels are often used on the outer sides of the perimeter of the sports area for proper rainwater runoff;
- the presence of a floor that provides adequate shock absorption;
- removal of any rigid elements within the sports and playing area, which may constitute a danger in case of falls;
- verification of sports equipment, certified in accordance with current regulations (nets, baskets, goals, etc.), both during installation and throughout their life cycle.
The quality and safety of a multi-purpose outdoor playground or school area is constantly monitored through regular maintenance activities and by checking the proper use of the sports facility. The checks include not only an analysis of the facility as a whole, but also investigate the condition of the outdoor sports flooring and equipment in the sports area.
As with the flooring, the equipment must also be checked for proper use and maintenance, in particular:
- verification of correct installation;
- monitoring and planned preventive maintenance;
- training of users in the proper use of facilities and equipment, to avoid risks and for the proper preservation of the elements of the installation over time.
The main types of sports flooring for outdoor multi-sports facilities
Flooring is a fundamental element when it comes to outdoor sports areas, especially in youth and amateur contexts, such as schools.
The most common surfaces in playgrounds and school areas dedicated to outdoor sports activities can be made of:
- concrete or asphalt: these are basic solutions, which cannot be considered as sports flooring due to their lack of elastic properties.
- synthetic resins: a "semi-rigid" solution, with almost no elastic performance, which improves the appearance of the rigid substrate;
- synthetic floors: both prefabricated and "in situ"; these are the only solutions that can guarantee adequate shock absorption. In the case of prefabricated floors, the EN 14877:2014 standard requires synthetic surfaces for outdoor sports areas to achieve a shock absorption level of 25% or more (the same level required since 2006 for indoor sports surfaces).
How to manage sports equipment in a school outdoor area
Baskets, handball or five-a-side football goals, gymnastics equipment, poles (e.g., to support the volleyball net): sports equipment in a school playground can come in various shapes and sizes.
These elements, although functional for the practice of certain sporting disciplines, can be a real source of risk, linked to impacts, falls or unintentional tripping.
However, many accidents and injuries can be avoided if the sports equipment installed meets all the safety and quality requirements under European legislation.
To verify that this is the case, it is essential to ask the manufacturer for a certificate of conformity, issued by an accredited laboratory (external to the manufacturer) and which must accompany the product's technical file.
It is not enough for a piece of equipment to be designed according to the regulations; it must have passed independent tests to prove its safety.
Are you planning a school multi-sports area or would you like to know more about our flooring for outdoor multi-sports facilities? Contact MONDO to speak to a technical sales consultant.