Despite lockdown parks in England are open. It is likely therefore that children and adults will be visiting parks and public playgrounds for exercise.
It is not unusual for children to suffer bumps, bruises and scrapes whilst playing but sometimes the injuries suffered are more serious.
In 2019 RoSPA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) reported that there that there are approximately 40,000 injuries to children on playgrounds each year which result in a hospital visit. 40% of those were related to issues with parks and playgrounds.
Local councils are usually the organisations who build and maintain public parks. While it is true that they are not responsible for supervising members of the public using a park, they do have a legal responsibility to ensure it can be used by everyone and is sufficiently maintained and safe. They also have to expect children to be less careful than adults and must take this into account during their planning, inspection and maintenance.
The duty of care on local councils is known as ‘tort’ or ‘common law’. Essentially this means, if a child or adult suffers an injury due to faulty equipment or a hazard that has not been properly marked and cordoned off in a park, the local council could be liable to pay compensation.
Their duties include but are not limited to:
· Correctly installing high quality and safe equipment and other facilities
· Regularly conducting risk assessments
· Regularly conducting maintenance checks
· Ensuring the park is kept clean and tidy
· Making sure road and walkway surfaces are accessible and safe
· Making sure the design and materials used in playgrounds and parks are correct and suitable taking into account the age of the users
The above also applies to free access multi-sports gym equipment, which are becoming more popular in parks and are being used more often whilst gyms are shut.
If the local authority is notified of a problem with, for instance, a piece of gym equipment, they must carry out the necessary repair work within a reasonable period of time and take appropriate measures, such as condoning the equipment off, to ensure others cannot access that equipment in the meantime.