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To fence, or not to fence

What are some of the uses and benefits of fences?

  • Erecting a fence around a backyard pool improves safety and limits unaccompanied access
  • Fencing around animal enclosures serve to protect the animals, people, and environment
  • Fences help to define a space and restrict access to a secure facility

Erecting fencing is a smart practice and it makes sense in many areas and for many reasons.

Across Australia, fencing standards and laws vary according to your location and the type of fence you’re building. They address the types of fencing materials used, the height and use of a fence, the positioning of it and the difference between a fence and a retaining wall and ensuring it does not restrict water run-off.

Playground Fencing – Advantages, Disadvantages, Considerations

But, does it make sense to fence a playground? Is a fence around a playground a legal requirement? And, if it is, what kind of fencing is the right option?

Fencing playgrounds has various disadvantages and advantages. It takes careful consideration and should be reviewed on a project-by-project basis in order to determine whether a fence is actually required around a play space.

There is no standard in place for fencing around play spaces, so each case should be considered on its own merit and requirements.

Play Australia discourages Councils from erecting structures like fences that are intended to separate children from adults within a playground area. However, they do encourage the design of stimulating play spaces that foster integrated use by children and their families alike, with no barriers to separation.

Fencing around outdoor play spaces assists in preventing children from running out into hazards such as a busy road and waterways or to keep animals out.

While fencing is not a mandatory requirement for public play spaces, the need for fencing should be determined by conducting a risk assessment.

Some factors for consideration include:

  • Is the play space adjacent to a busy road?
  • Is the play space near a waterway?
  • Is a cycleway included in the play space?
  • Is there a dog park located near the play space?
  • Is the design of the play space for younger children?
  • Are full or partial barriers required?
  • Is there an opportunity to design garden beds/hedges as barriers?

Advantages of Playground Fencing

  1. Fences provide reassurance for some families that will only visit fenced playgrounds because their children are prone to running away.
  2. Fences are a good way to separate a play space from other areas of a community park that could present a risk to the safety of children, such as: footy field, dog park, road, lake or river
  3. The fence gives carers a sense of confidence to allow the children to play freely and safely within a defined space.
  4. Fences can add a strong visual element to the playground’s design, especially if using materials such as rail fences, bollards, landscaping, plants, garden beds, hedges, mounding, stone/brick wall or any combination of these.

Disadvantages of Playground Fencing

  1. Fences separate children from the open space around the playground and therefore, limit the scope, variety and opportunities for various children’s play. It restricts the learning, development and fun opportunities for the children.
  2. Often fencing can separate children and carers. They relax and tend to be less attentive to the children under their care, which increases the risk of injury. For example, a small child could attempt equipment that is too difficult for their age resulting in harm.
  3. They don’t always look attractive and can add a ‘commercial’ or ‘manufactured’ feel to the play space. However, with creatively this can be improved as stated in point #4 in the advantages list.

Design Considerations for Playground Fencing

While fences around playgrounds do have both advantages and disadvantages, there are some circumstances where fences make sense and they must be installed.

When installing fencing, consider:

  • While the Australia Playground Standard doesn’t specify requirements for fences around playgrounds, many playground auditors take the approach that if an item is within a play space, playground standards should apply. For example, a fence surrounding a playground that has entrapments or sharp edges is likely to not be accepted.
  • Local government and building authorities may have requirements around the type of fences that are installed in public spaces.
  • The alternatives to the standard fence design and materials – consider a two-rail fence, bollards, landscaping, plants, garden beds, hedges, mounding, stone/brick walls or some combination of these.
  • That playground fencing should require easy and minimal maintenance and should be durable enough to withstand the environment.
  • Allowing for easy access to the site and select heavy-duty access locks and equipment to any play space gates in view of minimal maintenance.

The right fence in the right playground can add a dimension of safety and design that ultimately improves the quality of play and the quality of experience and enjoyment of all those who visit it.

So, yes, sometimes a fence makes sense, even in a playground!

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