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Sand use at Corrigans Playground under question


An issue has been raised regarding the inclusion of a sand pit at the new Corrigans Beach playground. Following concerns of the possible contamination of the sand, including that of possible animal contamination, a letter was written to Council. Council's reply is as follows. 19 December 2016 (Para. 1) Thank you for your email of 17 December, 2016 regarding safety concerns with the sandpit at Corrigans Inclusive Playground. (Para. 2)The inclusive playground was established after extensive public consultation with user groups and disability advocates. A survey was undertaken as to what equipment our community would like to see in the playground and as a result the landscape architect included a sandpit in the final design. To minimise risk, including that of animal contamination a maintenance schedule has been developed for the sandpit and the wider playground. (Para. 3) Council is very conscious of public risk and does all that is possible to limit this risk by prioritising works within the budgets available. Our current maintenance schedule for the playground includes regular raking of the sandpit. This ensures that rubbish is removed and the sand is aired. Fresh air and sunshine are good natural disinfectants and exposure to rainfall will wash the sand periodically. “Aeration and sunshine is the most effective way of disinfecting sand.” (http://www.kidsafensw.org). (Para. 4) At this stage there is no plan in place to cover the sandpit at night. As the park is only new,the situation will be monitored by Parks staff to determine future requirements with regard to ongoing maintenance needs. (Para. 5) Sandpits are a wonderful source of fun and learning which is integral to development. The opportunity to provide a sandpit, particularly one that is accessible for children of all abilities, who may not otherwise be able to access sand, is a very special outcome for the community. Thank you for taking the time to express your concerns and rest assured that Council is working for the enjoyment and safety of the community. There are others in the community who are also concerned with the prospect of putting a sandpit in the playground and as word spreads of Council's response the community concern increases. Sandpits are not used in playgrounds for a number of reasons and the use of sand, even as soft fall, has not been used for more than 30 years in local government primarily because of the propensity for a needle stick injury with AIDS and Hep consequences. In the second paragraph of Council's response above a Barrister for the plaintiff (whose 3 yr old child now has AIDS because of a needle stick injury), might say “I note that you have consulted with user groups and disability advocates, but did you consult with an experienced expert?” In paragraph 3 the issue of public risk is addressed there is a get-out-of-gaol clause of "does all that is possible to limit this risk by prioritising works within the budgets available". Council will say it has a very limited budget and therefore has met its requirements to the best of its financial capacity. It is required however under OHS & R that a risk must be isolated if it can not be addressed. Council are now on notice that there is a risk that they do not have the capacity to mitigate. Kids Safe advocates advise anyone with a home sandbox to Keep it Dry and always give it a quick rake before each use to air out the sand to prevent dampness whilst also allowing for a check for foreign or dangerous objects before play. They also strongly advise covering a sandbox when not in use to prevent contamination by any unwanted objects or animal waste saying that plastic covers should not be used as they do not allow the sand to breathe and can encourage prolonged dampness suggesting instead cover a sandpit with a mesh material or fine chicken wire to prevent animals and birds using it as a litterbox. Disinfecting a sandpit is also highly recommended when needed following "an accident in the sandpit" such as a child or pet going to the toilet, or contamination by an unsanitary object Clear procedures need to be established that sees the removal of contaminated sand. It has also been suggested that a sign be placed adjacent to the sandpit advising that, once finished playing in the sandpit, children wash their hands thoroughly with water and soap. Councils such as Ryde and Marrickville require some elements of playground equipment an soft fall to be inspected daily, in the early morn, and these inspection and action requirements are mandatory. To use the term “Regular” in the response above, without clear definition of time frame is, in the opinion of informed community members, not satisfactory and they feel that such a vagary will also be less than satisfactory by a Court. The daily inspection regime also applies to paragraph 4 of the letter that indicates that as the park is only new, the future requirements with regard to ongoing maintenance needs have not yet been determined and will require monitoring by Parks staff on a "regular' basis subject to available budgets. At a minimum Council will need to determine the optimal depth of the sand and ensure that it does not fall below that depth. This will require a set policy of optimal depth and intervention. Council will also need to periodically remove shading mterial to allow the sand to be cleansed as they have advised that “Aeration and sunshine is the most effective way of disinfecting sand.” Lastly Council will need to clearly define in their maintenance policy and their budget how often they will replace the sand which adds to their bottom line in addition to their ongoing maintenance quotients. Such increases (at cycles to be determined) in inspection, maintenance and replacement requirements will now have to be agreed to by Councilors, costed and then added to the Council's Financial Plan. It is also of concern, in regards to Council's response, that there is no reference, from disability advocates or Open Space specialists to the claims being made in paragraph 5 that appears, by its very presence, to justify the inclusion of a sandpit in the array of playground components. Given that Eurobodalla is close to beaches (there are more beaches in Eurobodalla than any other LGA in the NSW) there is plenty of opportunity to use the larger "sand pit" of our regularly cleansed (twice a day) beaches. It is suggested that, before Stage 2 is commenced, relevant Council staff visit the Livvi's Place all abilities playground - Five Dock and Blenheim Park at Ryde as well as Putney Park playground and ask Ryde staff about the inspection regime for “at risk” equipment. These award winning play spaces do not have sand pits, or as Open Space design professionals call them “Needle disposal facilities”. NOTE: Those raising their concerns regarding the use of sand wish to make it very clear that they celebrate the new playground and the incredible efforts of all of those who have bought this amazing project into being. Their concern lies simply in the use of sand and Councils capacity to maintain the playground to ensure it presents NO risk to users. Thank you to the many community contributors to this article


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