Are Holiday Kids Clubs Safe? A Question of Standards for Parents

HolidayTravelWatch has reported previously on issues raised by parents on the management and operation of Kids Clubs. Occasionally we receive reports from parents of poor equipment or facilities, sometimes leading to minor injuries. In the same way that parents should be concerned about how a Kids Club is operated, they should assess the risk, by reference to the tour operators terms and conditions. They should also be mindful of the condition of the facilities in which they intend to place their children in.

The Travel Industry is currently exercised by the recent news that 2 employees of a Travel Company have been charged with offences before a Greek Court. The Travel Industry cry ‘foul’ at what they see as an additional burden upon them when they assess properties. In recent years, the Travel Industry has achieved protection against the British vs Local Standards argument, through a court authority called Hone. Simply, local standards apply!

Whilst it may be true that tour companies have sophisticated audit systems dealing with health and safety, we saw in the recent debate, and this has been demonstrated to HolidayTravelWatch, that reliance is sometimes made upon a ‘tick box’ culture of assessing health and safety. The question that should now be asked is whether such processes were ever legitimate, and can they now remain tenable? We have demonstrated that there is a real need to take care when choosing a holiday with a Kids Club Facility, and to check brochures and their terms or descriptions carefully. The problem however is how do parents establish what is a safe standard for their children insofar as a facility or equipment is concerned? Whilst the debate on standards grows, we would suggest that a good starting point for parents would be the ‘principles’ contained within the British Standard BS8409:2002. Parents should ask their travel provider if their kids club area meets these standards and request details on how they are managed! BS 8409:2002 sets out a minimum standard in soft play areas for children, these are summarised as follows:

  • Rule 5.1.1 (f) If the play area leads to a restaurant/bar area, a slow exit should be provided.
  • Rule 5.1.2 Doorways have to have vision panels and door closers where appropriate. Doorways should not open into the play areas. “Measures should be taken to avoid finger and foot entrapment on doors - Note: For example, a special fitting is available to mask the hinged side of doors within the indoor play facility”. Handles are to be placed at a fixed height.
  • Rule 5.2.13 There should be a clear demarcated area between playing and non playing areas. Tripping hazards should be avoided.
  • Rule 7.1.1 Staff should be instructed to ensure that carers stay adjacent to but outside the indoor play area so that they can provide re-assurance or control. Staff should be instructed to ensure that carers do not enter the play area. Staff should be instructed to ensure that carers remain where they can view in the facility to supervise their child.
  • Rule 7.1.2 This rules deals with the ‘clearly defined staffing levels’ and that each play area should be individually risk assessed to determine those levels.
  • Rule 7.2.1 This deals with staff training and maintenance of such training records.
  • Rule 7.2.2 This provides a training checklist. Amongst such items are: how to carry out inspections, the importance of keeping accurate records, the action and reporting procedures, relevant legislation and their responsibilities, line management responsibilities.
  • Rule 7.5.7 There should be no overcrowding. Maximum numbers should be maintained.
  • Rule 7.5.10 There should be notices informing carers that drink or food should not be taken in or consumed in the play area. Where there is a social area outside, a strict no glass or smoking policy should be enforced.
  • Rule 7.5.11 There should be notices displayed informing carers and children that jewellery, pinned badges, watches, money and other personal possessions should not be taken into the play area. Staff should be instructed to ensure that this is enforced.
  • Rule 7.5.13 There should be notices requesting the removal of shoes, and belts with large buckles, neckties and clothing with neck cords. Staff should be instructed to ensure that this is enforced.
  • Rule 7.5.15 Carers should be asked to encourage children to use the toilet before using the play equipment.
  • Rule 7.8.1 There should be clear signage to communicate the main rules of play.
  • Rule 7.8.2 states that rules of play signage, should be indicated in other languages where appropriate.
  • Rule 7.8.3 Rules on supervision should be made clear in all publicity material. This should be reinforced by staff at the reception to all carers.
  • Rule 8.1 Regular and systematic inspection routine is central to providing a safe area.
  • Rule 8.4 Any inspection and maintenance carried out should be documented.
  • Rule 10.1 Injuries happen and procedures for coping with them should be established.
  • Rule C.2 (k) This relates to a daily visual inspection. Staff should check to see that fire doors are functioning correctly and that fire doors are free from obstruction.

We say, if these are the standards applicable in the UK, why should they not also be available to parents in hotels abroad? To satisfy parental concerns, surely tour operators should be highlighting such high standards in brochures?

This article first appeared in the Travel-Zine of HolidayTravelWatch; Get’Away - Your Route to Travel Rights - Issue 6 - May 2008

If you have been affected by any Holiday Kids Clubs safety complaints, please contact us at HolidayTravelWatch

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