Playground standards FAQ

Who is responsible for playground safety?

The person, company, or organization that owns or operates a playground is responsible for the safety of the equipment and environment in the playground. Voluntary standards for children’s play spaces and equipment have been developed by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). These standards are voluntary only and not the law. It is each owner's or operator’s responsibility to ensure that their playground is safe.

There is no national enforcement body for playground safety. Some jurisdictions in Canada have passed regulations requiring public playground operators to ensure that their playgrounds meet the CSA Standard. For example, in some provinces, playgrounds at day care centres are required to meet the CSA standard in order for the centre to obtain an operating licence.

Who can inspect playgrounds to see if they meet current standards?

Playground safety inspectors have the necessary training to evaluate the safety of a playground. In Canada, several organizations deliver training to certify playground safety inspectors. The playground inspectors and inspections section may be of assistance.

What are the insurance and liability issues surrounding playgrounds? Are operators at a higher risk if they don't meet CSA standards?

The CSA Standard is not a law; it is a voluntary standard. The voluntary standard is intended only to apply to new play spaces. Following the CSA Standard only becomes mandatory when the Standard is referenced in legislation or a regulating organization's policy (for example, Ontario daycares must have playgrounds that meet the CSA Standard in order to get an operating licence). Canadian experts in child care, recreation and liability tell Safe Kids Canada that a solid program of inspections, maintenance and a schedule of improvements can also be used in court to show that a playground operator is exercising "due diligence".

Regarding existing playgrounds, how can owners or operators address safety effectively?

From a practical standpoint, many organizations and jurisdictions which operate playgrounds cannot afford to rebuild entire playgrounds, and this approach is not always necessary. Upgrades and improvements to equipment and surfacing may be sufficient. However, older playgrounds may present injury risks of varying degrees to the children who use them and it is reasonable to expect that a significant number of older playgrounds will continue to exist in many Canadian communities.

Parachute recommends that community authorities work together to develop long-term plans to audit and upgrade public playgrounds. Depending on the community, partners might include school boards, municipal parks and recreation departments, day care licensing bodies, day care operators, local injury prevention coalitions, First Nations band councils, and public health departments. We also strongly recommend that providers of liability insurance be involved in the assessment and planning process. Life-threatening or very serious hazards should be addressed right away.

These steps are recommended:

  • Assess your playground, preferably with the help of a qualified playground inspector.
  • Make a plan to address any hazards you find.
  • Remove or repair life-threatening or serious hazards right away.
  • Plan to upgrade other injury hazards as quickly as possible.
  • Plan to bring the entire playground up to CSA Standard over the next few years.
  • Plan to inspect and maintain the playground regularly.
  • Make upgrading protective surfacing a top priority.