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Jon Dalton (Register of Play Inspectors International) – Q&A

Jon Dalton (Register of Play Inspectors International) – Q&A

Posted on September 5, 2012 by API

Jon Dalton gives us the lowdown on the latest safety standards in play.

Hi Jon, what does a play inspector do?

Playground inspectors are employed by a variety of clients, including local authorities, playground equipment manufacturers, schools, housing associations and holiday parks to check that the play equipment provided is both safe and fit for purpose.

We carry out different types of inspections but mainly what we call ‘Post Installation’ and ‘Annual’ Inspections. Post Installation Inspections are very important because they check newly-installed playground equipment to ensure that the equipment has been designed and installed in compliance with the guidelines detailed in the British and European Standards (BS EN 1176).

Annual Inspections are carried out every year to check the condition of play equipment throughout its lifespan. Annual Inspections are again very important because as well as checking the condition of the equipment, and commenting on any compliance defects that may have arisen since the equipment has been installed, they are also a very good way of checking any maintenance works that have been undertaken throughout the course of the year.

What is the RPII?

The Register of Play Inspectors International (RPII) examines, accredits and certificates individual inspectors; it also accredits courses so people can train inspectors. RPII is an OFQUAL recognised awarding body.

The RPII provides different levels of qualifications for indoor, outdoor and inflatable playground equipment inspectors. With outdoor inspectors, we have 3 levels of qualification: Routine, Operational and Annual; the Routine qualification is aimed mainly towards local authority staff that inspect playground equipment on a daily or weekly basis. The Operational qualification again is aimed towards local authority staff and maintenance companies that carry out monthly and quarterly inspections and carry-out repairs on playground equipment, and the Annual qualification is aimed at individuals or companies that provide annual and post installation inspection services to a variety of clients. It should be noted that there is big difference between the levels of knowledge & experience required to be an Operational and an Annual Inspector, and the RPII are working hard to ensure that the market is aware of what each particular qualification means. We have recently introduced some special ‘seals’ that can only be used by Annual Inspectors to help clients establish whether they are using appropriately qualified inspectors.

What is the most important aspect of making playgrounds fun as well as safe?

Fundamentally, good design. By choosing the right equipment for the intended age group and providing an interesting area that children will have fun exploring the challenges provided for them. The use of landscaping features can greatly enhance the ‘fun’ element of any playground if it is created thoughtfully and with future maintenance in mind.

How important is risk in play?

I prefer to use the word ‘challenge’ than risk, but it is very important! A lot of people think that standards and playground inspectors are out to try and stifle good design and make sure everything is as safe as possible, but this is not the case at all. Interestingly, the introduction to BS EN 1176 actually states the following:

“Risk-taking is an essential feature of play provision and of all environments in which children legitimately spend time playing. Play provision aims to offer children the chance to encounter acceptable risks as part of a stimulating, challenging and controlled learning environment. Play provision should aim at managing the balance between the need to offer risk and the need to keep children safe from serious harm.

The principles of safety management are applicable both to workplaces in general as well as to play provision. However, the balance between safety and benefits is likely to be different in the two environments. In play provision exposure to some degree of risk may be of benefit because it satisfies a basic human need and gives children the chance to learn about risk and consequences in a controlled environment.

Respecting the characteristics of children’s play and the way children benefit from playing on the playground with regard to development, children need to learn to cope with risk and this may lead to bumps and bruises and even occasionally a broken limb. The aim of this standard is first and foremost to prevent accidents with a disabling or fatal consequence, and secondly to lessen serious consequences caused by the occasional mishap that inevitably will occur in children’s pursuit of expanding their level of competence, be it socially, intellectually or physically.”

(Source: BSEN 1176, 2008) – to find out more visit the British Standards Institute website.

What safety research should schools and communities carry-out when creating a new playground?

Anyone looking to buy a playground should start by looking at the API website where they will find a list of reputable manufacturers that provide a good service. There are lots of companies out there and they all offer something slightly different, so it is important to shop around in order to try and find the manufacturers that can meet your brief as well as possible. One thing they should stipulate is that a Post Installation Inspection must be carried out by an RPII Registered Annual Inspector prior to the playground being opened for use. A playground can cost tens of thousands of pounds so it is well worth investing another few hundred just to make sure that everything has been completed to the correct standard.

How can RPII help me find an inspector?

Anyone interested in finding a playground inspector can visit the RPII website ( and click on the relevant area that they are interested in (Indoor/Outdoor/Inflatable play). A list of qualified inspectors is available on each page. Alternatively you can click on the ‘Find Nearest Inspector’ link and type in their postcode to see if there is an inspector nearby, although it should be noted that most playground inspectors or inspection companies operate nationwide, so the closest might not necessarily offer the best or most competitive service.

NEW Safety Surfacing Guide!

API has published a new Code of Practice: Provision of Impact Attenuating Surfaces document. The document includes useful information on basic construction requirements, specification and maintenance currently employed in constructing impact absorbing surfaces in playgrounds and is a handy point of reference to the relevant British and European Standards (BSEN 1176 and 1177) written in easy to understand English with a jargon-busting glossary of technical terms, for the use of:

Play professionals (installers, designers and manufacturers)


Parish councils and resident’s associations

Local authorities and parks staff

To enable ease of access, the guide will be available for free download from the API website at:




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