If you looked at the condition of playgrounds in Malaysia, how would you rate them? Great? Horrible? Satisfactory?But the statistics are clear. Playgrounds in Malaysia are NOT SAFE. 🙁
According to a recent study on 40 parks, 75.6% of public playgrounds are in a bad state. Almost half of the facilities are spoilt and in dire need of repair. Rusty swing hooks, missing handhold bars and leg rests, broken spring rockers and big gaps in pathways are just some of the findings. Over 50% of playground equipment and park furniture are also rusty, reported The Star.
But the most common problem for playgrounds is the surface or flooring. 64% are either uneven, damaged, rotten, fungus-infested, worn out or unfastened from concrete floors.
But never fear, the playground safety inspectors are here!! Say what?
These guys inspect playgrounds to make sure they’re in tip top condition
The Playground Safety Association of Malaysia (PSAM) was formed in Dec 2013, by a bunch of people who have a passion for playgrounds. It started when the International Playground Safety Institute (IPSI) from the US came here in 2012 to conduct a course called the ‘Certified Playground Safety Inspector’ (CPSI). It really blew the minds of Malaysian participants on how little we know about playground safety.
So that’s how PSAM was born! They go around checking the condition of playgrounds to ensure kids can play in a safe and secure environment. But to become an inspector, a person has to pass the CPSI course first. Presently, there are 25 old CPSIs and they added another 24 people to their gang after the new candidates passed the examination in 2016.
“This is a long-standing problem in Malaysia because the know-how on playground maintenance and safety is still rather new here. But it’s high time to start training contractors to build safer playgrounds with proper layouts.” – Noriah Mat, PSAM Secretary-General, The Star
So what does a CPSI do? These guys are seriously like playground guardians. When someone engages PSAM, they will send one or more of their inspectors (depending on the size of playground) to the site, armed with measuring tapes and clipboard all, to test every component and equipment, making sure things won’t fall apart like a house of cards.
“Developers must ensure that playground surfaces have a soft, loose-fill top layer, with a depth of 30cm, and that it does not collect water and is free of litter. Slides that are up to 6ft (1.82m) high need a play zone that is 6ft wide. Taller slides that extend up to 8ft (2.4m) need a play zone that is as wide as the equipment is tall.” – Tiew Hai San, President of PSAM, quoted from The Malaysian Times
Whether its an old existing playground or new one, PSAM has services for all. For new ones, inspectors can oversee their construction from start to end (planning, types of equipment to use, supervising construction and then post installation auditing). For old playgrounds, PSAM can produce a report on their condition – safety level, hazard risk, how long it’s expected to last and perform, whether anything needs to be replaced, cost estimation for repairs, and so on.
We cannot assume a playground is 100% safe, even after using certified equipment or sourcing from ISO- and SIRIM-approved suppliers. Each site is unique, plus we cannot rule out human error during installation, environmental irregularities, design fails, etc. PSAM’s inspectors will be there to make sure everything complies with international safety standards. Better safe than sorry.
After they’ve done their inspections, clients will receive a confidential report on all risk hazards and non-compliance, where they then can figure out their next course of corrective action. If you feel that the playground in your area needs checking, you can download PSAM’s Audit Brochure in PDF format here.
Very real accidents can happen if these facilities are not repaired
Some parents are not satisfied with the condition of many playgrounds in Malaysia, though PSAM believes the awareness of hazards posed is still quite low among the public. It seems that parents are more often concerned about their children being kidnapped than injured (which is legit in this day and age). 🙁
Mom and lawyer Shakila Naseer, 40, who lives in Mutiara Damansara describes the one in her neighbourhood as a horrible mosquito breeding ground. She’d rather bring her kids to indoor playgrounds that charge an admission fee coz they’re better maintained.
“I think our playgrounds are generally not safe, as I have seen broken playground equipment in many places. In one playground, I actually saw a swing snap while a boy was using it. Luckily, he was not moving too fast or he could have been severely injured.” – Shakila told The Star
During a national seminar on playgrounds, Public Complaints Bureau Director-General Harjeet Singh said the local authorities received 11,231 complaints regarding playgrounds between 2015 and 2016. Based on stats from the Ministry of Health (MOH), 530 children were discharged from public hospitals after suffering from falls involving playground equipment between 2014 and 2016. Some includes broken spines!! D:
“This is an important factor because 78% of injuries by children in playgrounds are due to falls.” – according to the PSAM study on Sunday Star
Thankfully those 530 kids were only injured, but what about 8-year-old Ahmad Ilham Fikri Ahmad Zaki who was killed when a falling goal post crushed him at a padang near his house in Batu Pahat, Johor? Or Muhammad Naquiddin Mohd Marzuki, 11, who was electrocuted at a playground in Shah Alam and died? The boy was making his way home when he accidentally fell and touched an exposed high-voltage wire on a lamp post at a playground.
Extreme cases like those are few and far between, but still, more can be done to make our playgrounds safer for children. The problem, like Noriah mentioned is because playgrounds in Malaysia have not changed much over the past 20 years and do not follow more stringent, international safety standards.
“Playgrounds in Malaysia are generally MS 966:2001-compliant and based on the 1991 International Standard and American Society for Testing and Materials standards. Most playgrounds do not comply with the safety and maintenance standards. A survey of playgrounds nationwide should be carried out to ascertain how safe they are.” – Noriah told The Star
Tsk tsk, see the chart below:
Actually who’s job is it to maintain playgrounds?
Public Complaints Bureau D-G Harjeet Singh suggested that local councils make it mandatory to audit parks yearly. “The findings of such checks should be the reference for local authorities to allocate budgets in repairing, upgrading and maintaining playgrounds,” he said. He added that perhaps each council should have officers who are qualified CPSI.
Tiew Hai San, who is also the Undersecretary for the FT Ministry’s Strategic Development Division said that the Ministry launched the Children’s Playground Safety Policy in 2013 (in its jurisdiction – KL, Putrajaya and Labuan), to improve equipment safety and lifespan, standardise and carry out maintenance work every 6 months. He explained that developers often bundle playgrounds with housing projects, but once the houses are occupied they don’t care aldy.
But in January last year, the Department of Standards updated and approved 3 standards, so the next step is to engage all 149 local councils to apply it to playgrounds nationwide. And they gotta embed these standards
in their hearts in the contracts for developers and contractors. That would be a good start to boosting playground safety.
Once that’s all been done, then it’s in the public’s hands also to maintain stuff, not vandalise and graffiti them. Otherwise this is why we can’t have nice things, guys! The Kajang Municipal Council (MPKj) thought of the genius idea of getting the public to adopt a park, ‘padang angkat’. MPKj President Mohd Sayuthi Bakar said they identified 5 to 6 parks, repair and beautify them, before handing it over to residents associations (RA).
“The selected RAs will be the eyes and ears of the Council; they will watch out for vandals, including preventing their children from vandalising the playground facilities. Without a sense of belonging, the public will take things provided by the Council for granted instead of taking good care of the equipment.” – Mohd Sayuthi, quoted in Star Metro