Update on Tuesday, July 28: The town council has agreed to reopen the play areas. See: Uckfield’s play areas: re-opening decision.
Uckfield Town Council is to consider whether it can open its seven play areas again in light of the latest Government guidance on Covid-19 safety regulations.
The advice previously saying that all touch points on equipment had to be frequently cleaned, with heavily used equipment cleaned after use, or at least frequently during the morning and afternoon.
And the council’s insurance company was taking a strict line about liability and the importance of ensuring the safety of play area users.
But now the advice has been updated and the town council is to consider its position again at a meeting of the environment and leisure committee which takes place tonight.
A report to the committee says it would take one member of staff three-and-a-half hours a day to thoroughly sanitise the play areas and this would not be at the frequency that the Government and local environmental health departments required.
Installing permanent hand sanitiser units at the play areas would be a costly exercise, with some companies quoting in the hundreds and thousands.
And there was also concern that such units would be vandalised, with incidents of vandalism already occurring in a number of play areas to equipment, to signage and broken glass.
The report also says that it must also be stressed that whatever method or decision is taken forward appropriate signage must be placed at each play area, and for users of the play areas to refrain from removing these.
An urgent consultation panel met at the beginning of July to consider options for sanitising the play areas but there was a split decision on the best way forward and that is why a decision is sought at tonight’s meeting.
The options outlined previously included grounds staff using a ‘very high strength’ sanitiser once a month on all play and adult gym equipment.
This would be suitable outside in all weather conditions and would stay on surfaces for 30 days, but it costs £155 per five litre bottle and a ‘fogging machine’ would also be needed and that would cost between £200 and £1,000.
The method is expensive, still required the use of existing resources/manpower on a currently reduced team, and full liability would be on the town council.
Another option would be to employ a company to sanitise play areas with the same product. That would cost £795 plus VAT per month. A certificate would be supplied as proof of application and the surface would be tested to ensure coverage.
This would meet Government guidance but the options would be expensive.
Latest Government guidance
Guidance guidance was updated on July 17 which appears to place more emphasis on promoting the cleaning of equipment by users, their parents, guardians and carers.
It says consideration should be given to:
- using signs and posters:
- to promote cleaning of equipment by users, parents, guardians and carers, particularly where there are clear touch points such as swing rockers, see saws, machine handles or exercise bars
- encouraging outdoor gym users to bring their own towel and hygiene products and wipe down equipment after use
- encouraging parents to bring hand sanitiser gel or wipes to clean their children’s hands
- to encourage hand hygiene with including washing/sanitising hands more often than usual, for 20 seconds using soap and water or approved gel and foam sanitiser, particularly at the beginning and end of play
- to advise users (or parents of users) not to touch their faces, and to cough or sneeze into a tissue or arm when a tissue is not available
- to remind adults and children not to put their mouths on equipment or their hands in their mouths
- to promote and remind users, parents, guardians and carers of the need for social distancing
- to remind users to dispose of used face coverings and PPE properly in a ‘black bag’ waste bin or litter bin, and not to put into recycling bins
- when communicating safety messages owners/operators should ensure they are able to reach those with hearing or vision impairments. Consideration should also be given on how to assist those with disabilities with complying with the changes
- providing more waste facilities and more frequent rubbish collection
- where practicable, providing hand sanitiser (automated where possible) or hand washing facilities at the entry and exit points, in addition to public toilets/washrooms
- using disposable paper towels in handwashing facilities where possible.
The full guidance can be read here on the UK Gov website.