There are a million guidelines to buying your perfect house. What kind of area is good, what materials last even through an earthquake, state-of-the-art amenities that make your home safer and the added luxuries like gyms and golf courts. With the number of big-budget housing projects increasing not just in number but in the facilities they offer, sometimes we tend to miss the obvious. Have you ever wondered if the play areas in your homes or even public parks, are safe for your children?

A recent study by www.safekids.org, a US based community for children’s safety has revealed that from 1994 to 2000, at least 147 children have died from playground-related injuries. And this in a country where there are stringent rules for manufacturing playground equipments. But what about India where there is no independent authority or a rulebook to monitor the quality of play areas?

Koochie, a Bengaluru-based play equipment manufacturer, was recently awarded the EN 1176, the highest certification given to playground equipments in India and the first company from the country to be given that honour.

“Overseas, there is a manual that gives details on how any equipment must be designed, manufactured and installed. The good part about that is that anyone entering the industry has to meet their standards and hence the products are safe,” says Roben Dass, Chairman and Managing Director, Koochie Play Systems, “In India, there are no norms in the playground industry and there is an absence of a statutory body or laws, rules and regulations in states to govern this problem. If you have a workshop in your garage, you can make a swing.”

While other dealers agree that there aren’t any standards to go by, they point out that the industry itself is niche. “We have a very niche kind of market and not many people can get into it easily. And there are only so many clients that we can have. Even if you look at playground equipment manufacturers in the country as a whole, there are very few,” says Umesh Babu, Managing Director, Kinderplay.

And so, many of these manufacturers have come up with their own safety standards to ensure that the products they manufacture and sell are safe to use.

“Since what we manufacture is being used by children, we have the responsibility of being extra careful about what we do,” says Firasat Ali, director, F A Fitess, a Chennai-based company that manufactures play equipment. “Most of these play areas are outdoor and hence, the equipments are under the sun most of the time. We have to make sure the material we use doesn’t absorb this heat. There is a fibre mat that we use that isn’t harmful. Slides can be at a maximum of five feet,” he explains.

“For safety, we make sure there are no sharp edges. There are two kinds of metal that people usually put into slides. They’re mysteel and galvanized iron. While the former is unsafe and rusts very quickly, the latter doesn’t and you only have to give a coating of lead-free paints to make it safe,” explains Umesh.

Roben, on the other hand, follows international guidelines hoping it will become a national standard. “Fibre glass slides are banned worldwide because they cause asthma and, in the long run, cancer too. In India, we still use them. At our company, we make certified products so that they’re safe and durable. Child safety is the biggest thing looked at in any country. But in India, no one cares to do a survey and make things right,” he reiterates.

How does one rectify the situation? By customizing products and making good standard a necessity, feel these manufacturers.

“Usually, since there is no rule book on play areas, we tend to go to the client’s property and look at the area before we set up the place. A lot needs to be taken into consideration like the total area, the number of items the client wants etc.. We make sure there is enough space between each game, and keep the height minimal and weight maximum,” Firasat explains.

“Playground safety is now a luxury,” says Roben, adding, “Five years ago, a seatbelt would cost Rs. 4000 as it was considered a premium product. Now, all cars come equipped with one. The same way, when builders realise that a safe play area is a necessity and not a luxury, playing will be safe again.”