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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) .

34.1 kB

34.1 kB

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

34.1 kB

Operational checklist

This checklist and summary is for soft play centre owners/ operators and is designed to be used in conjunction with guidance for the soft play sector. Please ensure you read the guidance. Soft play centres are currently required to remain closed by law and this guidance is to assist the sector to prepare for re-opening at a future date (to be confirmed).

Action for soft play businesses to take

Stage 1: Plan – management responsibilities

Considerations to ensure you are prepared for the opening of your facility.

In this section:

  • developing a re-instatement plan
  • reviewing and updating existing operating policies
  • ensure your workforce is on board
  • first aid
  • risk assessments
  • PPE requirements for workforce and customers
  • current and future cleaning requirements
  • hygiene, health & safety, cleaning
  • physical distancing implications
  • queue management
  • programming of your facilities
  • reviewing how you record customer attendance

Developing a re-instatement plan

Consider if the facility can be fully or partially opened and how this might be phased. Access to some areas may need to be restricted or prohibited altogether where physical distancing or cleaning standards cannot be maintained.

As part of the re-instatement plan, appoint a specific individual (COVID-19 Officer) and/or group who will be responsible for implementing the actions listed below, ensuring they receive appropriate training and support.

Reviewing and updating existing operating policies

Consider changing your facility operating policies to reflect current restrictions.

  • health and safety policies
  • normal and emergency operating procedures
  • cleaning and maintenance schedules
  • disaster recovery processes
  • facility inspections and hazard reporting
  • first aid provision
  • accident reporting
  • waste disposal
  • staff policies/amount of staff required
  • ‘Safe Systems of Work’ and ‘Permits to Work’ policies
  • test and trace policy
  • review your privacy notice and policy

Consider how you will report a COVID-19 outbreak from your facility.

  • what records do you have in place that identify attendance of customers at each session?
  • do you have a serious incident management plan, including all up to date emergency contact details?

Ensure your workforce is on board

Ensure your workforce is aware of and understands the changes to the facility management processes and is  clear about any additional expectations you have of them.

This is likely to include managing the flow and expectations of users, hygiene, health and safety, physical distancing requirements, the cleaning of equipment, programming sessions differently to comply with facility guidelines, the use of PPE and any potential conflict between customers.

Consider safe travel to work arrangements for staff as part of a risk assessment, with any relevant adjustments adopted

Regular and ongoing engagement between organisations and trade union or workforce representatives is vital to ensure a safe working environment and related workforce confidence

Review sickness/ absence and annual leave policies to consider self-isolation requirements.

First Aid

Operators should ensure appropriate first aid provision is risk assessed and implemented.

Risk assessments

You must complete and implement a full risk assessment in consultation with the workforce which should be approved following the facility operator’s management process.

PPE requirements for workforce

Consider whether PPE is required for the workforce. Further information on the use of PPE is available at HPS guidance for non-healthcare settings current and future cleaning requirements

Face coverings

Ensure face coverings are worn by workforce and customers, in line with this guidance, and ensure relevant clear communication and signage is available before entering and on the premises.

Current and future cleaning requirements

Review cleaning methods, frequency and cleaning check procedures, ensuring you understand and implement the detailed list of cleaning requirements set out in this guidance.

Hygiene, health and safety, cleaning

Hand and respiratory hygiene are core measures and provision should be made for these.

Clear guidance and plans are needed for cleaning of all facilities, play frames and equipment, and waste disposal, following specific requirements for soft play sector set out in this guidance.

Physical distancing implications

The overall capacity of your facility will have to be limited in order to maintain 2 metre physical distancing requirements for all persons (including staff). Exception to this would be any contained hospitality areas of the premises (such as restaurant, café) which would be subject to the Hospitality statutory guidance. This may have implications on how you can use your facility.   

Calculate the number of staff, children and participating/supervising adults, who can safely be in the building / centre/facility and display this and other access policies.

Consider how access to your facility will be managed to maintain physical distancing.

Supplier deliveries may need to change to maintain physical distancing. Where relevant, review contractor policies.

Consider staggering arrival and departure times of staff to reduce crowding into and out of the workplace, if this is an issue.

Queue management

Consider impact of any new traffic and street management plans from local authorities.

Use outside premises for queuing where available, such as car parks, and consider implications for traffic management where necessary.

Consider adjustments that might be required to your own queue management system, including the wearing of face coverings and signage to depict 2m spacing.

Consider nearby businesses and communicate to manage shared queueing areas where outside space is limited or not available. If assistance in this matter is required contact your local authority for advice.

Consider table service only for any refreshments/ cafeteria/ food type services to ensure no queues can form and physical distancing can be observed.

Programming of your facilities

Ensure enough time is allowed in-between play sessions to clean the space and any equipment used.

Allow sufficient time between session to fully ventilate the premises.

Stagger arrival and departure time slots to reduce crowding into and out of the premises. This will also prevent the crossover of people either within the building or externally in the car parking area/drop off area and help maintain physical distancing requirements.

Specific care should be taken when programming for vulnerable groups with additional support needs. Larger buffer times may be required, and protocols may need supervised to ensure compliance.

Access policies could be reviewed to ensure up to date information is available for users with disabilities, particularly around play and access.

Review your opening hours. These may be reduced or extended depending on individual operator requirements.

Reviewing how you record participant attendance

Measures should be put in place to record every attendance at a facility. In the event of a customer developing COVID-19 symptoms, this will enable any others that they may have been in contact with to be identified.

Stage 2: Prepare – facility essentials

Actions to prepare your facility prior to re-opening:

  • review ventilation systems
  • remove all equipment and furniture that may be hard to clean
  • identify high traffic touch points
  • commission water services
  • commission electricity systems
  • commission gas services
  • check alarms and safety systems
  • pest control measures

Remove all equipment and furniture that may be hard to clean

Remove ball/ soft foam pits and any other equipment/ toys and furniture that would be hard to clean thoroughly.

Removal of rugs and mats where safe to do so will make cleaning and disinfection of floors easier.

Identify high traffic touch points

All high traffic touch points should be regularly clean and sanitised, including:

  • all gates
  • internal and external door handles or touch plates
  • internal or external handrails
  • gates or fences
  • car park pay machines
  • soft play equipment/ toys
  • IT equipment
  • desks/ tables
  • chairs and high chairs
  • phones
  • taps
  • vending machines and dispensers

Commission water services

If you have not been able to do regular checks on water systems, then you will need to get the water quality tested by a qualified person for Legionella and other contaminates. Further information is available here: HSE guidance on legionella risks.

All drains should be checked and unblocked, and any damaged drain covers should be repaired or replaced.

Commission gas services

Your boiler plant may not be designed to be switched off, whilst the age of the boiler may make it difficult to switch it on again. Ask a qualified Gas Safe engineer to check your boiler to ensure that it is safe to operate.

Commission electricity systems

You may experience minor issues with your electrical systems after a long period of non-use. Ask qualified professionals to check your electrical services and appliances to ensure they are safe to operate.

Mechanical and  Electrical services will require some level of checks and potential servicing. The responsible person should contact their maintenance firm for advice.

Review ventilation systems

Keep windows, doors and air vents open as much as possible to ensure a fresh air supply is provided to all areas of the facility and increased wherever possible. Particular attention should be given to areas where there is likely to be greater physical activity or likely to be occupied by more people.

Ensure the ventilation system is operating effectively. You can do this by checking it is set to introduce as much fresh air as possible by replacing any filters where required, and ensuring there are no faults with the system and it is not visibly damaged.

The risk of transmission is greater in poorly ventilated spaces. The mechanical ventilation rates should not be lowered if the number of people reduces in an area temporarily. It is best to keep fresh air flowing into the space at all times where possible.

The responsible person should contact an appropriately qualified professional and/ or maintenance firm for advice and support.

Ventilation systems should provide 100% fresh air and not recirculate air from one space to another.

Check relevant Scottish Government and HSE guidance on ventilation and air-conditioning.

Trial your regular cleaning schedule

Appropriate cleaning time should be built into facility sessions as it will take up more time than normal.

As a minimum, high contact surfaces should be cleaned between booked sessions as well as before opening or after closing. A time buffer between each session should be allowed to clean every area used as well as the time for people to leave and the next session to arrive without a cross over.

Toys/ equipment should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected prior to use and after use.

Toys/ equipment that might not be easily cleaned prior to its next use, such as ball/ soft foam pits should be removed.

The soft play frame should be treated with specific cleaning products which provide ongoing protection and keep treated areas contamination free between cleaning cycles.

Depending on the size of the facility, dedicated cleaning teams may be required.

Cleaning should be done by a couple of small dedicated trained cleaning teams containing up to two or three people (members of staff or external contractors). This means that if one operative contracts COVID-19 (and therefore their colleagues may also need to isolate) the entire cleaning team is not lost from the facility.

The small cleaning teams should be self-contained, operating together while observing physical distancing, and must use the correct PPE. They must not mix with other cleaning teams or other staff and customers and only use the dedicated equipment for their own team.

Cleaning checks

Establish a cleaning schedule and relevant processes to ensure that all cleaning has taken place to the required standard.

Stage 2: Prepare – hygiene, health and safety

In this section:

  • provide hand sanitising stations
  • ensure hand washing facilities are fit for purpose
  • changing rooms, showers and toilets
  • make essential facilities easy to clean
  • ensure all equipment is cleaned, disinfected and fit for purpose
  • online booking and contactless payment
  • use of screens

Provide hand sanitising stations

These should be located at the entrance and exit points and any other key areas. The placement of the facilities should take into account the height and accessibility for everyone to sanitise or wash their hands, e.g small children, wheelchair users. Hand sanitiser is not recommended for children when soap and water is available. Hand sanitiser should not be used by children under 12 months.

Ensure hand washing facilities are fit for purpose

Hand washing facilities should be provided with hot water, liquid soap/ antibacterial gel/ foam available for all facility users. The placement of the facilities should take into account the height and accessibility for everyone to sanitise or wash their hands, e.g small children, wheelchair users.

Ensure signage is in place requesting that parents/carers support children with hand hygiene.

Provide appropriate hand drying facilities and waste disposal.

Ensure these facilities are cleaned and restocked regularly.


Ensure that all water systems, for example sinks and toilets, are safe to use after a prolonged facility shutdown to minimise the risk of legionella and other diseases associated with water.

Introduce enhanced cleaning of all facilities regularly during the day and at the end of the day.

Provide additional signposting in these areas to maintain physical distancing.

Online booking and contactless payment

A move to online booking and payment is recommended and customers should be encouraged to use contactless or cashless payment where possible.

Use of screens

Use screens, if physical distancing cannot be maintained, to create a physical barrier between people, for example at till points.

Stage 2: Prepare – physical distancing

In this section:

  • clearly identify the areas of the facility that are open or restricted
  • manage capacity and overcrowding
  • manage activity in the facility
  • physically distance the space
  • provide physical distancing markers
  • implement a one way or traffic light system of entry
  • face to face services
  • supervising adults

Clearly identify the areas of the facility that are open or restricted

You may phase the re-opening of the facility. Ensure that the areas where workers, children and supervising/participating adults can go are clearly marked, controlled and monitored.

Clearly demarcate any hospitality area / café on site (to ensure compliance with relevant guidance in relation to physical distancing and face coverings).

Areas such as lifts, should only be used in exceptional circumstances and be limited to one household at a time, making sure that people with disabilities are able to access lifts.

Emergency exit routes should be clearly identified and accessible at all times.

Manage capacity and overcrowding

Maximum capacity should be in line with the regulatory requirements and Scottish Government guidance on physical distancing, equipment layout and the configuration of facilities, as detailed in this guidance.

It is important to ensure:

Attention is given to ventilation and sufficient circulation space specially around equipment and between sessions.

A risk assessment is conducted for each facility to identify:

  • the number of children and participating/ supervising adults that can reasonably follow physical distancing within the facility, taking into account total space, equipment as well as other facilities such as toilets
  • activities that can be undertaken and specific measures to ensure physical distancing, enhanced hygiene and cleaning
  • additional needs of any customers with disabilities

Limit the number of children and supervising adults in the soft play area overall and in any particular congestion areas, for example doorways.

Consider introducing a booking system (online or over the phone) or other approaches to manage demand, so that no more than the desired number of customers and staff are in the building at any one time.

Allowing a sufficient break time between sessions to prevent waiting/ queuing and to allow time for cleaning.

Managing activity in the facility

Suspend or modify activities that are not permitted or cannot be undertaken without contravening physical distancing requirements within available facilities.

Avoid use of shared items e.g. toys, balls, dress up clothing etc. unless they can be cleaned or sanitised between users.

Ensure that any water fountains have signage which prohibits face-to-tap drinking (no receptacle) and that these facilities are used only to refill personal bottles or containers and are cleaned regularly.

Physically distance the space

This may require a reduction, removal or repositioning of furniture, equipment or seats to maintain physical distancing. Any tables and chairs in staff or common areas should be set out to maintain physical distancing.

Provide physical distancing markers

Markers on floors and ground identifying physical distancing of 2 metres based on current regulatory requirements and Scottish Government guidance.

Areas to consider include physical activity spaces, circulation spaces, lockers (if available) and toilets.

Implement a one way or traffic light system of entry

Consider a traffic light system or one-way system for entering buildings and toilets to maintain appropriate physical distancing.

This may mean having separate entry and exit points, which may need to be managed by staff to minimise any queuing and to maintain physical distancing.

All of this should be clearly marked for users and wherever possible communicated to them in advance of their arrival.

Supervising Adults

Supervising Adults should be included in capacity calculations.

Stage 2: Prepare – inform In this section:

  • ensure your workforce is on board
  • ensure hygiene procedures are communicated to customers
  • ensure physical distancing measures are communicated to customers
  • ensure new procedures are communicated to people with disabilities

Ensure your workforce is on board.

Ensure the workforce is aware of and understands the changes to the facility management processes and is clear about any additional expectations you have of staff.

This is likely to include managing the flow and expectations of users, hygiene, health and safety, physical distancing requirements, the cleaning of equipment, programming sessions differently to comply with facility guidelines, the use of PPE and any potential conflict between customers.

Ensure hygiene procedures are communicated to customers

Consider what steps you will need to take to ensure that facility users are responsible for their own hygiene to mitigate against the transmission of COVID-19 within the facility.

Install posters/ stickers to remind of any good hygiene practices and changes to usual protocols.

Users are unlikely to read every poster, and other methods of communication may also be required. This could be done virtually, via videos, emails or social media or repeated announcements within the facility.

Ensure physical distancing measures are communicated to customers

Consider issuing customers with information prior to their attendance at the facility. This will allow them to familiarise themselves with the procedures before entering the facility. This could include procedures you have in place to ensure their safety and what they are expected to take responsibility for.

A map, plan or other guidance may be provided which shows the one-way system within the building, location of pick up and drop off areas, restricted or out of bounds areas.

Signage and floor markings will be required to assist people to use the facility safely. This should be clear and easily understood, particularly for those who are hearing or visually impaired. It may be best to use existing signage templates to ensure all instructions are clear and recognisable and accessible to all.

Ensure new procedures are communicated to people with disabilities

You should take reasonable steps to ensure that people with disabilities are informed about new procedures, and are able to access facilities, i.e. handwashing facilities at wheelchair height, verbal direction for those unable to see floor markings or signage etc.

Stage 3: Protect

Actions to protect the safety of customers while your facility is open

In this section:

  • maintain record of customers
  • cleaning plan
  • PPE
  • hygiene measures
  • physical distancing measures
  • communication with your workforce and customers

  • accidents, security and other incidents
  • selling food, drink or merchandise

Maintain record of customers

Consider how you will report a COVID-19 outbreak from your facility. Ensure you have records in place that identify attendance of customer at each session, including up to date contact details.

Cleaning plan

Implement your cleaning plan. This may require additional training for staff. Ensure checks are completed and proposed cleaning standards are maintained.

Work areas, staff rooms, canteens and equipment should be cleaned frequently using your usual cleaning products as set out in this guidance.


Ensure the correct PPE is provided to staff as required, following latest Scottish Government advice.

Hygiene measures

Ensure that hygiene measures for staff, children and participating/ supervising adults including pump action containers, liquid soap/ sanitiser, disinfectant spray and wipes etc. are in place, cleaned and restocked regularly.

Physical distancing measures

Ensure that physical distancing measures are in place as planned and the management of these continues.

Communication with your workforce and participants

Maintain frequent communication with staff and customers to keep them up to date with current processes and any changes.

Accidents, security and other incidents

Protocols for dealing with emergencies, evacuations and accidents will be impacted by the need to maintain physical distancing. Emergency, evacuation and accident response processes therefore need to be considered to ensure effective arrangements are still in place. Everyone onsite should be familiar with new processes:

  • consider the security implications of any changes you intend to make to your operations and practices in response to COVID-19, as any revisions may present new or altered security risks which may need mitigations.
  • ensure staff receive adequate training on new processes

Selling food, drink or merchandise

Food outlets and cafés, including any food or drink facilities inside a soft play facility, can open in accordance with the latest Scottish Government guidance:

Operating restaurants in accordance with Tourism and Hospitality Sector Guidance

Operating retail outlets in accordance with Retail Sector Guidance

Stage 4: Review

Review and update your plans regularly once your facility is open and operating

In this section:

  • operating policies
  • risk assessments
  • cleaning plan
  • hygiene measures
  • physical distancing measures
  • longer term planning

Operating policies

Continue to review your operating policies in line with the latest Scottish Government guidance which is under constant review.

Risk assessments

Continue to review your risk assessments in line with Scottish Government guidance and as you learn from the behaviour of users within your facility.

Cleaning plan

To ensure cleaning standards are maintained as planned, regular reviews and changes may be required in response to any issues identified.

Hygiene measures

To ensure hygiene measures are in place as planned, regular reviews and changes may be required in response to any issues identified.

Physical distancing measures

Evaluate the success and any issues identified as a result of the measures taken and change them if required. Any non-compliance may be a risk for transmission. This may mean areas of your facility require to remain partially or fully closed.

Longer term planning

Consider the potential for a re-emergence of a COVID-19 style pandemic and additional restrictions being introduced. This may form the basis of a business continuity plan.

First published: 30 Oct 2020 Last updated: 28 May 2021 -