Children playing outsideThe Play Safety Forum, has launched a new practical tool which it says will "tackle 'cotton wool culture' head-on" and make a positive case for risk, adventure and challenge as vital ingredients in children’s play.

The initiative is supported by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the UK Government and will be useful for people involved in managing spaces and settings in which children play, and for those involved in designing and maintaining them.

Judith Hackitt, Chair of HSE said: "Play - and particularly play outdoors - teaches young people how to deal with risk. Without this awareness and learning they are ill equipped to deal with adult life. Outdoor play and learning is an important part of our children's education.

"HSE endorses the proportionate advice in the RBA Form. We should all make sure that needless health and safety excuses do not get in the way of activities. Of course take sensible and reasonable precautions, but let young people play."

The ‘Risk-Benefit Assessment Form’ is a tool to support play providers to balance the benefits of an activity with any inherent risk, taking into account the risks while recognising the benefits to children and young people of challenging play experiences.

The RBA Form is available in two formats: as a blank form, and as a hypothetical worked example based on a tree swing. The Form was commissioned and developed by the Play Safety Forum, which brings together all the leading UK agencies with an interest in play safety, and is co-authored by Professor David Ball, Tim Gill and Bernard Spiegal.

It builds on over a decade of work by the Play Safety Forum to promote a more balanced approach to risk in children’s play. It is based on the Government-funded publication ‘Managing Risk in Play Provision: Implementation guide’ first published by Play England in 2008 and republished as a second edition in 2013.

Robin Sutcliffe, Chair of the Play Safety Forum added: "Children need and choose exciting places to play, which inevitably means managing situations that are inherently risky. The RBA form will help providers assess how this can be reconciled with a natural desire for children’s safety."