Publication - Advice and guidance

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for the soft play sector

Guidance for soft play centres to help the sector to prepare for re-opening (at level 0 or 1) .

Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance for the soft play sector
Infection prevention and control

Infection prevention and control

There are a range of key practices that soft play providers should use in relation to hygiene and the prevention and control of the spread of infection. However, maintaining 2 metre physical distance among all persons (as set out above), wearing face coverings, respiratory hygiene and regular hand hygiene and enhanced cleaning processes remain the cornerstone of infection prevention. 

Hand and respiratory hygiene

All staff, users and visitors to soft play centres and facilities should maintain good hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene. Providers should make arrangements for hand and respiratory hygiene in the centre and communicate this clearly to staff and customers.

There are a range of resources available from the NHS to encourage children with handwashing. Hand sanitiser is not recommended for children when soap and water is available. Hand sanitiser should not be used by children under 12 months.

Providers must ensure that handwashing facilities are accessible for children as well as adults. The placement of the facilities should take into account the height and accessibility for everyone to wash their hands, e.g small children, wheelchair users. Hand sanitiser should be available in locations around the premises and available to children, young people, parents and carers, staff and contractors at entry/ exit points to the centre and separate play frames/ zones, and reception desks. Providers should consider the following hand hygiene measures for staff, service users and contractors:

  • frequent washing of hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • hand sanitiser can be used as an alternative when hands are not visibly soiled or if soap and water aren’t available at all times
  • consider how users will dry their hands and provide suitable disposal facilities for paper towels
  • hand sanitiser stations can create slip hazards where high use leaves drips on the floor; consider how to catch drips and ensure cleaning of this area
  • sanitiser and hand-washing facilities at key points, including at  entry and exit points to the centre and to separate play frames / zones within the centre
  • COVID-19 is predominantly transmitted via the eyes, nose and mouth. Therefore people should be discouraged from touching their face or face covering without washing their hands
  • parents should encourage children, where age appropriate, not to touch their face, using distraction methods and keeping children busy, rather than making this an issue
  • use a tissue or elbow to cough or sneeze. Provide families with tissue and a method of disposing of these appropriately (closed waste bin with liner).
  • parents should where possible supervise children washing their hands and provide assistance if required
  • clear signage should be available for those using the premises (including staff) 
  • implement cleaning procedures for any goods and merchandise entering the premises, including containers
  • provide a nearby supply of hand sanitiser for staff to use when handling deliveries where handwashing is not practical
  • ensure staff have access to handwashing facilities and are able to regularly wash their hands
  • if staff have to use touch-based security devices such as keypads to enter the business through controlled areas, either seek alternatives or implement cleaning arrangements
  • limit or restrict the use of high-touch items and equipment such as, for example, printers or whiteboards

Enhanced cleaning

  • there should be enhancement of the daily cleaning regime normally used, including routine cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched areas and hard surfaces (such as handles, doors etc),  equipment used by staff (e.g. telephones, keyboards, kitchen areas) as well as all facilities used by customers including toilets and baby change facilities (specific cleaning requirements for soft play equipment and frames provided in previous section)

  • frequently touched areas may be different for adults and children; soft play centre operators should consider the different age groups using their facilities and the touch points associated with that usage
  • set clear use and cleaning guidance and signage for toilets to ensure they are kept clean, following the Scottish Government guidance on opening public and customer toilets
  • where baby changing facilities are provided, set clear use and cleaning guidance to ensure they are kept clean and that physical distancing is achieved. It is preferable for parents to bring their own personal changing mats if possible, with good hygiene practice in place for washing hands and disposing of waste
  • a cleaning schedule should be designed with date, time and name of person responsible for the cleaning, to ensure all cleaning requirements are implemented
  • adequate collection and disposal arrangements should be made available for any additional waste created by enhanced cleaning practices
  • if cleaning and disinfecting after a known or suspected case of COVID-19 then refer to the guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings, this includes guidance on when PPE might be appropriate and how to dispose of waste

Cleaning and disinfecting the soft play facility before reopening

Soft play centres have been required to be closed by law. Before considering re-opening, soft play operators should ensure that all premises which were closed are clean and ready to restart, including:

  • an assessment for all sites, including different parts/ equipment before restarting work
  • undertaking deep-clean and disinfection of all frames and equipment.
  • ball/ soft foam pits and any other equipment that may be harder to clean thoroughly should be closed or removed
  • checking whether you need to service or adjust ventilation systems so that they do not automatically reduce ventilation levels due to lower than normal occupancy levels

Most air conditioning systems do not need adjustment, however where systems serve multiple buildings, or you are unsure, advice should be sought from your heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) engineers or advisers. See HSE guidance on air conditioning and ventilation during the coronavirus outbreak and the Scottish Government COVID-19 ventilation guidance for more details. Open windows and doors frequently to encourage ventilation, where possible. This does not apply to fire doors.

Legionella testing

There is an increased risk of Legionnaire’s Disease when buildings have been out of use, or not running at full capacity. This is because water systems may become stagnant when not in use, increasing the risk of legionella within water supplies. Many public and office buildings have been closed during the COVID-19 crisis, making legionella a legitimate concern as lockdown restrictions are eased.

The Health and Safety Executive have published advice on the risk of Legionella in buildings which are closed or running with reduced occupancy during COVID-19 crisis.

Building owners or operators must undertake a health and safety check of buildings, and deep cleaning prior to reopening where necessary, to mitigate risks. More information can be found on the HSE website.

Outbreak management

There are different thresholds for defining incidents and outbreaks in different settings. Soft play centre operators should suspect an outbreak if there is either:

  • two or more cases (test confirmed or suspected) of COVID-19 in a setting within 14 days - where this could be due to cross transmission (cross transmission is the transfer of bacteria or viruses between people or via the environment of a piece of equipment)

or

  • an increase in staff absence rates, in a setting, due to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19

If any organisation or setting suspects a COVID-19 outbreak, they should immediately inform their local NHS board Health Protection Team (HPT). Sometimes the first contact may be made by the local HPT to inform the organisation as the local HPT may get information from NHS Test & Protect or other sources.

In the event of an outbreak:

  • continue to follow the existing protection and control measures contained within this guidance
  • the local Health Protection Team will undertake a risk assessment and conduct a rapid investigation. They will advise on the most appropriate action to take
  • staff who have had close contact with case(s) will be asked to self-isolate at home. In some cases, a larger number of other staff may be asked to self-isolate at home as a precautionary measure
  • where settings are observing guidance on infection prevention and control, which will reduce risk of transmission, the local health protection team will take this into account in determining whether closure of the whole setting will be necessary
  • depending on the risk assessment outcome, the Health Protection Team may establish an Incident Management Team (IMT) to help manage the situation
  • the Incident Management Team will lead the Public Health response and investigations, and work with the organisation to put appropriate interventions in place

 To control an outbreak the Health Protection Team and Incident Management Team will work with the organisation to put appropriate interventions in place. These will generally include ensuring that the preventive measures described in this guidance are fully implemented. Other measures may include:

  • cleaning in the setting - for cleaning and waste management, refer to guidance on cleaning in non-healthcare settings for maintaining hygiene and safety of the cleaning staff
  • consider wider testing of affected population and staff
  • information - ensure that staff (and other relevant people) are aware of what has happened and the actions being taken
  • closure - may be done following advice from the Health Protection Team and Incident Management Team or the business may make their own decision on closure ahead of this advice as a precaution or for business continuity reasons

The Health Protection Team/Local Authority Environmental Health or Incident Management Team will declare when the outbreak is over.

Test and Protect and self-isolating

Test and Protect, Scotland’s approach to implementing the 'test, trace, isolate, support' strategy, is a public health measure designed to break chains of transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community.

Staff, visitors or users who develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19 must follow the Test and Protect guidance. Anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms or has been diagnosed with COVID-19 (whether they have symptoms or not), individuals from the same household as someone who has symptoms of COVID-19 or who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and individuals who have been identified as a contact of someone with COVID-19  should not enter. This should be made clear at the point of booking and at all entry points.

Those who do test positive for COVID-19 will be asked to continue to self-isolate for 10 days following symptom onset and their close contacts, identified through contact tracing, will be asked to self-isolate for 10 days.

The Test and Protect guidance includes information on support available to those who are asked to self-isolate.

Soft play operators should develop a clear procedure for what to do should a user, visitor or staff member display symptoms of COVID-19 when in the premises, adhering to HPS COVID-19 guidance for non-healthcare settings.  If they hear of associated cases from customers or staff they should call local Health Protection team or Environmental Health team first before taking any further action.

Employers are encouraged to work with trade union or workforce representatives to enable individuals to work from home while self-isolating if appropriate. If an individual develops symptoms consistent with COVID-19, you should help them arrange to be tested by directing them to NHS Inform or having them call 0800 028 2816.

There should be a particular focus on protecting people who are clinically vulnerable and more likely to develop serious illness as a result of exposure to COVID-19. Actions to minimise the spread of COVID-19 should include:

List of symptoms: NHS Inform Coronavirus Symptoms  

  • a high temperature
  • a new, continuous cough
  • loss or change to your sense of smell or taste

Providers should plan as much as possible to minimise the operational impact of individual staff or volunteers being required to self-isolate and may wish to keep a record of absences of staff and volunteers where this is due to suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

Service or activity providers are asked to keep a temporary record of contact details for a period of 21 days for any users or visitors (e.g. trainee volunteers, delivery persons or contractors) to the setting they are using where they do not already have up to date contact details for them. This is to support contact tracing as part of NHS Scotland’s Test and Protect system, in the event of an outbreak linked to a particular service, activity or setting.

There is guidance on supporting Test and Protect by collecting data on users and visitors. This guidance includes what information to collect, how to collect that information and how to store the data securely. The guidance also contains a template Privacy Notice that should be made available to all users and visitors to the setting, service or activity. This ensures that those providing their details are informed as to what will happen to their data.

There are information governance arrangements in place if data is shared with NHS Scotland on the basis of individuals being identified as at risk of being close contacts by the Test and Protect service. In no circumstance should a service provider use this collected data to directly contact users, volunteers or staff, even in the event of a known outbreak within the premises.

Guidance on environmental decontamination (cleaning and disinfection), where it becomes apparent that a person using or working at the venue has a possible COVID-19 infection, can be found in the HPS COVID-19: guidance for non-healthcare settings.


First published: 30 Oct 2020 Last updated: 15 Jul 2021 -