Australian standards for playgrounds

Australian Standards for Playgrounds

Playgrounds are excellent creative tools for children’s learning and development. However, as with any type of play environment meant for the use of children, it is crucial to ensure the safety of all users by anticipating and managing risk from early in the planning and design stages.

This is where the Australian Safety Standards for Playgrounds come in. These guidelines have been developed as a guide to playground design, installation, maintenance and operation. The goal is to optimise the safety of playgrounds and minimise the risks associated with such environments.

The Australian Standards for Playgrounds are an invaluable resource for any company involved in the planning, designing, building, operation and maintenance of a playground.

In this article, we will talk about the new standards that apply to playgrounds, specifically AS 4685.1-6:2021, which is divided into six parts.

But first, we’ll go over the playground components that are covered by the Australian Standards.

Components of a playground

A playground is a space or area with very specific components. It comprises the site, natural features, built environment or landscape, and manufactured elements, such as the equipment and surfacing.

Natural features

Nature-based playground elements include sand, hills or mounds and embankments, trees, water, natural or seasonal items (e.g., leaves and flowers), rocks and stones, plants and logs or stumps. All of these features can help in building children’s creativity, imagination and problem-solving skills.

Unlike manufactured products or playground equipment, whose hazards are more easily identified or apparent, natural playground features are usually unpredictable. This is not to say that Playground Standards do not cover natural playground elements,  just that the Australian Playground Standards cannot be easily applied to natural playground features.

To counter this limitation, the suitability of nature-based elements to playground facilities is carefully considered through risk-benefit assessments. These are conducted with a goal to ensure children’s playgrounds remain a safe environment, prevent injuries and adhere to the AS 4685 series of standards.

Australian safety standards for playgrounds cover both natural and manufactured elements

Manufactured features

The manufactured features of a playground comprise the actual play equipment and any surfacing material to which the Standards for soft-fall apply.

  • Playground equipment: These products are designed, manufactured and installed based on specific safety standards. Some examples of common playground equipment include swings, slides, carousels, climbers and seesaws. Although play equipment provides children hours of fun, it can also pose safety hazards when they are misused or made from substandard materials. They may also be constructed poorly without consideration for the users, the setting or the weather conditions. This is why we have stringent Australian  Safety Standards that specifically apply to play equipment.
  • Playground surfaces: As another manufactured element of children’s playgrounds, approved playground surfaces do not only impact the aesthetics of the surroundings, but they also play a more important role in terms of playground safety. With falls being a very common playground-related accident, the surface for your playground project is a major consideration. You need to evaluate each option’s soft-fall effect so you can make your playground a more inviting, fun and safe place for everyone.There are different types of playground surfaces to choose from, including engineered wood fibre (EWF), loose-fill rubber or rubber mulch, poured in place (PIP) rubber, rubber tiles, synthetic grass or turf, and playground mats. Any additional requirements for playground surfaces in the new playground standards indicate the importance of choosing the right surfacing material for your playground project.Soft fall, in particular, is a crucial consideration, as the choice of material can greatly impact the ability of the surface to cushion a child from a fall accident and prevent serious injury.

Playground standards in NSW and other parts of Australia are uniformly implemented, whether they pertain to playground equipment or surfacing materials.

Australian playground standards cover both natural and manufactured elements

Playground safety standards

Falls are the most common cause of injuries related to playgrounds, and this was confirmed in a joint review project conducted in 2017 by the Macquarie University, The University of Sydney and the Australian Catholic University. Their study also revealed that 8.3% of child hospital visits are related to injuries arising from falls from playground equipment.

In light of these findings and changes in the design, material choices and construction of playground equipment, it is important for playground safety standards to be updated from time to time.

The goal of the changes in the standards is to ensure safety in playgrounds. Modifications in the standards also consider for Australian weather conditions that can greatly impact the safety and quality of playground equipment materials, particularly in relation to hot weather, humidity, proximity to salt spray and UV light damage.

By providing adequate information and updated, detailed guidelines to manufacturers, suppliers, designers and operators of playgrounds and playground equipment, these stakeholders can remain responsive to safety requirements.

Adhering to the standards also means preventing being subjected to expensive and potentially damaging litigation arising from playground accidents due to unsafe playground design, materials and equipment.

AS 4685.1-6:2021

The AS 4685.1-6:2021 comprises the following six key parts, with parts 2 to 6 covering the most common play equipment and components:

  1. General safety requirements and test methods
  2. Additional safety requirements and test methods for swings
  3. Additional safety requirements and test methods for slides
  4. Additional safety requirements and test methods for cableways
  5. Additional specific safety requirements and test methods for carousels
  6. Additional safety requirements and test methods for rocking equipment

We’ll be discussing each part in detail below:

AS 4685.1:2021 – General safety requirements and test methods

The AS 4685.1:2021 standard authored by the Standards Australia Committee CS-005, Playground Equipment, supersedes AS 4685.1:2014.

The updated standards specify the general safety requirements for public playground equipment and surfacing that are to be installed permanently. It also encompasses additional requirements designed to protect children from unforeseen risks.

The key points discussed in Section 4 (Safety) of AS 4685.1:2021 comprise the following:

  • Materials (4.1): The selection of the appropriate playground materials is a primary aspect of safety. Relative to this, all materials must meet the provisions set under the following subsections:
    • Flammability Standards (4.1.2)
    • Timber and Associated Products (4.1.3)
    • Metals (4.1.4)
    • Synthetics (4.1.5)
    • Dangerous Substances (4.1.6)
  • Design and Manufacture (4.2):Play equipment must conform, as appropriate, to the additional provisions of EN 1176 (playground equipment standard). Additional specific requirements for protection from falling, steep elements and playground equipment that are easily accessible are also included. The subsections under Section 4.2 cover:
    • Structural Integrity (4.2.2)
    • Accessibility for Adults (4.2.3)
    • Protection Against Falling (4.2.4)
    • Finish of Equipment (4.2.5)
    • Moving Parts (4.2.6)
    • Protection Against Entrapment (4.2.7)
    • Protection Against Injuries During Movement and Falling (4.2.8)
    • Means of Access (4.2.9)
    • Connections (4.2.10)
    • Consumable Components (4.2.11)
    • Ropes (4.2.12)
    • Chains (4.2.13)
    • Foundations (4.2.14)
    • Heavy Suspended Rigid Beams (4.2.15)
    • Bouncing Facilities (4.2.16)

Other major sections of the document cover the following items:

  • 5: Verification of compliance and reports
  • 6: Information to be provided by the manufacturer/supplier
  • 7: Marking

AS 4685.2:2021 – Additional safety requirements and test methods for swings

The AS 4685.2:2021 standard authored by the Standards Australia Committee CS-005, Playground Equipment, supersedes AS 4685.2:2014.

The goal here is to set additional safety requirements pertaining to swings installed permanently for the use of children. These requirements cover the following items:

  • Ground clearance, which includes information on the minimum ground clearance for single-use swings, group swings and contact swings with vertical tyres as seats
  • Seat clearance for single-point swings
  • Minimum clearance and lateral stability of swing seats with more than one point of suspension, including the minimum space between swing seats and the lateral stability of swing seats
  • Means of suspension
  • Impact attenuation of swing seats, which covers swing seats and vertical tyre seats, cradle swing seats and group swing seats
  • Dynamic load for swing equipment
  • Structural integrity, which encompasses the calculation of reaction forces and testing
  • Height of fall and impact area, covering free height of fall (FHoF) and the dimensions of falling space and impact area
  • Additional type requirements that include swings with several rotational axes, single-point swings and contact swings

The requirements for test reporting and marking swings are also included in this section.


AS 4685.3:2021 – Additional safety requirements and test methods for slides

The AS 4685.3:2021 standard authored by the Standards Australia Committee CS-005, Playground Equipment, supersedes AS 4685.3:2014.

The objective of the new standards is to specify additional safety requirements regarding slides installed permanently for the use of children. The new standards cover the following elements:

  • Access requirements for slides in general, embankment slides, freestanding slides and attachment slides
  • Starting section of the slide, including the length and angle, guarding section, width, lateral or side protection
  • Sliding section of the slide, which covers the length and angle, width, slides and profile of the slide
  • Run-out section of the slide
  • Surface of the slide, including its fabrication and construction
  • Free space requirements for the area before the starting section and immediately after the run-out section
  • Impact area for freestanding slides and attachment slides
  • Tunnel and mixed tunnel slides, with a focus on clearance and position

Test reporting and marking requirements are also covered in this part of the standards.


AS 4685.4:2021 – Additional safety requirements and test methods for cableways

The AS 4685.4:2021 standard authored by the Standards Australia Committee CS-005, Playground Equipment, supersedes AS 4685.4:2014.

The playground standards Australia document specifies additional safety requirements for cableways installed for the permanent use of children. These additional requirements for cableways embodied in the standards include:

  • Framework and fixing points for the cable, including the importance of using an adjusting device for sag correction
  • Calculation of forces acting on the cable of a cableway to ensure it withstands them
  • Stops at the terminus, suspension element and starting speed allowance
  • Traveler construction and other elements
  • Suspension assembly to prevent the risk of strangulation
  • Proper distancing for cableways arranged in parallel
  • Grips – construction, material and other requirements
  • Seat design and testing
  • Maximum speed of the traveler
  • Free height of fall (FHoF) measurement and determination
  • Ground clearance for seating type, all hanging types and rigid hanging types
  • Minimum cable length measurements
  • Falling space and impact area guidelines, conditions and requirements

Moreover, the test reporting and marking requirements are included in the standards, plus details on the information to be provided by the manufacturer and or supplier for each cableway.


AS 4685.5:2021 – Additional specific safety requirements and test methods for carousels

The AS 4685.5:2021 standard authored by the Standards Australia Committee CS-005, Playground Equipment supersedes AS 4685.5:2014.

The goal of the new standards is to specify additional safety requirements for permanently installed carousels intended for the use of children. These safety requirements talk about the following items in detail:

  • Free height of fall, height of user stations and impact areas, which covers Type A Seat 1000, Type B Platform 1000 and Seat 1000, Type C Grip 3000 and Seat 1500, Type D Seat 1000, Type E Disc 1000 and Type F Top of profile 1000
  • Horizontal extent of the free and falling space relative to the impact area
  • Entrapment requirements for all types of openings that pose risks for head and neck entrapment, clothing and hair entrapment, foot and leg entrapment, and finger entrapment
  • Requirements for user stations with hand grips and testing guidelines
  • Load capacity and stability, calculation of user stations and load cases
  • Type-specific requirements for rotating chairs (carousel diameter, ground clearance, user stations), carousel with platform (carousel construction, rotating platform flush to the ground, rotating platform not flush with the ground), overhead carousel type (user station suspension guidelines and use of free space, structural integrity and impact attenuation), track-driven carousel (drive design and parts, drive wheels, supporting structure components, tracks), inclined disc (design and construction), bowl-like carousel (equipment design guidelines), freestanding carousel with a diameter of less than 500 millimetres (centre pole structural strength, measurement and testing)

Guidelines regarding test reporting and marking for carousels are also specified in the standards.


AS 4685.6:2021 – Additional safety requirements and test methods for seesaws and rocking equipment

The AS 4685.6:2021 standard authored by the Standards Australia Committee CS-005, Playground Equipment, supersedes AS 4685.6:2014.

These new Australian safety standards for playground equipment include additional requirements for seesaws and rocking equipment that have been permanently installed for children’s use. The following safety requirements are covered extensively in the new standards:

  • Free height of fall (FHoF) relative to the centre of the seat or stand
  • Testing and maximum seat or stand slope
  • Testing requirements to prevent pinching and crushing
  • Guidelines on the restraint of motion to prevent the damping effect
  • Footrests – testing and installation requirements
  • Hand supports – installation and testing to minimise the hazard of eye injury
  • Side view profile design and installation guidelines
  • Equipment must be designed to prevent entrapment through the implementation of a minimum ground clearance of 230 millimetres, damping effects and deflecting effects
  • Falling space and impact area measurements and specifications
  • Anchor covering relative to the seats
  • Additional seesaw/rocking equipment type requirements, including:
    • Axial seesaw (testing and measurement)
    • Multi point seesaw/rocking equipment (angle during rotation, vertical axis)
    • Rocking seesaw (measurement of total range of movement and ground clearance)
    • Overhead single axis seesaw (measurement of FHoF) and free space, forced movement requirement exemptions

This section of the standards also mentions specific test reporting and marking guidelines for rocking equipment.


The importance of adhering to playground standards in Australia

Standards Australia recognises the importance of playgrounds in children’s growth and development and uses it’s expertise and comprehensive information bank to set Australian playground safety standards across all states.

Although manufacturers and suppliers have no control over the way their playground equipment is used, you can do your part of keeping the playground a safer place for children and other users by adhering to playground safety standards in Australia.

Adhering to playground standards in Australia

Playground design and manufacture at Moduplay

At Moduplay, we know how important it is to adhere to playground safety standards  right across Australia, whether it be in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland or any otherstate where we have ongoing projects. We take it upon ourselves to stay apprised of the latest developments or changes to these standards.

To ensure all the playgrounds we design not only meet client requirements but also comply with Australian standards for playgrounds, all projects go through the following steps:

  • Consultation– We have a dedicated team of experienced playground designers and outdoor area experts who are ready to brainstorm design ideas with you and provide professional advice.
  • Planning – Our team will meet with you to decide on the best approach to the project. This is a great time for a site visit, or an online meeting, to test the feasibility of your project requirements.
  • Design– It’s time to get those great ideas on paper. We’ll combine the information you have given us about  the available space, the expected number of users (children), site features, special or unique factors and requests or preferences to come up with impressive designs for your review.
  • Manufacturing– It is now time to implement our sustainable manufacturing processes to produce your world-class playground equipment. We apply stringent quality control standards on every single piece we manufacture. All of our products are fully compliant with the relevant Australian Playground Safety Standards at point of handover  Manufacturing is a complicated process, but it’s something we have mastered with years of experience. The manufacturing process takes place at our Wollongong factory and includes metal fabrication, plastic machining, plastic moulding, powder coating and pre-assembly, (this happens on site of course).

The design, creation and installation of playgrounds by Moduplay is a complex (kind of repeats the above) undertaking. It requires a high level of commitment to product quality for us to remain compliant with current Australian playground standards but that is what our clients expect and what we love to deliver.


All Moduplay playground products are Australian Safety Standards compliant and come with a Moduplay Warranty and Guarantee System.  For your added peace of mind, all the projects we handle are covered by comprehensive insurance policies.

If you want the assurance of safety compliance in your playground project, get in touch with us at Moduplay Group Pty Ltd. You can also check our project gallery to get a better idea of our capabilities.


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