A recent accident at an outdoor playground in the Central Highland’s province of Đắk Lắk has raised concerns about the poor conditions of children’s play equipment in Việt Nam.
|Children and adults enjoy a ride at Lê Thị Riêng Culture Park in District 10 in HCM City. - VNA/VNS Photo Hoàng Hải |
Two children under 11 years old fell from a height of four metres when a piece of equipment in the playground – located on Lê Duẩn Street in Buôn Ma Thuột City – malfunctioned on April 15. They were taken to a local hospital for emergency treatment.
This was not the first time children have been injured while at playgrounds and amusement parks in Việt Nam. In 2015, two children under 14 fell off a roller coaster when their carriage derailed at an amusement park in the southernmost province of Cà Mau. Both of them were badly injured with several broken bones.
Despite these accidents, a lot of small playgrounds for children in HCM City were recently reported by Tiền Phong (Vanguard) newspaper to be operating with degraded equipment due to irregular maintenance that did not ensure safety for children.
Behind alley No 14 in Bình Hưng Hòa Ward in Bình Tân District is a vacant space which serves as a playground for children in the neighbourhood. Its iron swing sets, roundabouts, mini trains and slides were reported to be rusted away.
Equipment at other playgrounds in Gò Vấp and Tân Phú districts, as well as District 5 and 6 was spotted in the same condition. Uncovered electrical cables were seen lying haphazardly on the ground; some were covered loosely with tape.
No adequate attention was paid to repairing these pieces of equipment. The owner of a mini playground on Lạc Long Quân Street in District 11 said she rarely requested service from professional repairmen but often fixed the equipment herself.
“For simple equipment like swing sets or animal hoppers, all I do is tighten the screws,” she said. “I only ask for help from welders and electricians when there are problems with the electrical ones.”
It is not that technical inspections of amusement equipments haven’t been regulated. Ferris wheels that have been in use for over 8 years must be inspected once a year, and roller coasters that have been in use for over 6 years must be inspected once every two years, according to the Centre of Industrial Safety Registration Zone II under the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA).
The equipment must go through four tests with over 30 safety criteria during each inspection, according to the centre.
Safety inspections are compulsory for equipment that travels faster than 3 metres per second, and for those that carry children to 2 metres above the ground and higher before they are put into operation, according to Ngô Văn Phong, member of the Union of Science and Technology Associations of HCM City.
However, local authorities seemed to have turned a blind eye to the situation as it is very easy to open and maintain a playground without proper inspections conducted.
“I just went to the district People’s Committee to apply for a business license then bought and installed the equipment,” said the owner of a playground on Hiệp Bình Chánh Street in Thủ Đức District.
“No one ever checks them as long as I pay tax every month,” she said.