Sand pit safety -®
Sand pit safety:
keeping them clean
Do you have a sand pit in your service? These wonderful facilities are a great source of fun and creativity and can be a great learning resource as well. However a recent article in the Daily Telegraph about a Salmonella Java case at a child care centre in NSW leading to the closure of the sandpit highlights the importance of maintaining high standards of hygiene.

According to the article the standard practice in cases of a Salmonella Java outbreak in a child care service is to advise the centre to close the sandpits.

The Public Health Unit the tests the sand to check and if it proves positive for Salmonella then the service is required to change the sand before reopening the sandpit.

The NHMRC's Staying Healthy in Child Care offers child care providers the following guidance when it comes to child care:


Sandpits can be great fun. They are also a potential source of infection. They need to be well maintained and kept clean.

Sandpits must be closely covered when the child care centre is unattended to prevent contamination from animal faeces or inappropriately discarded sharp or dangerous objects such as broken glass.

The sand should be of a depth that can be easily raked over before each use, to help screen for foreign objects.

Sand that is contaminated by animal or human faeces, blood or other body fluids should be removed. Use a shovel and dispose of the sand in a plastic bag. The remaining sand should be raked over at intervals during the day and left exposed to the sun. Where extensive contamination has occurred, all sand should be replaced.

Children must wash their hands with soap and water after playing in the sandpit.

In addition, the Children and Youth Health website makes the following recommendations:

Keeping sandpits clean

  • Make sure the sandpit is well drained when it is built, so that it stays as dry as possible.
  • Cover the sandpit when not in use, eg with fine chicken wire, so that cats will not use it as a toilet. Plastic covers, which do not let air through, can keep the sandpit damp, and are not such a good idea. If you use fine wire rain will tend to wash the sand, helping to keep it clean so long as the water can drain away.
  • Take toys out of the sandpit each day.
  • Rake the sandpit regularly, to remove rubbish and to stir up the sand so it gets aired (fresh air is a good disinfectant).
  • Remove any dirt and rubbish you can see.
  • Wash the sand with tap water if it is not regularly washed by the rain.
  • Disinfecting sand pits is only needed when they are obviously dirty. Disinfect the sand when you need to (e.g. if a child does a poo in the sandpit). Use a mild detergent or household disinfectant diluted in water in a watering can. Follow the instructions for washing floors and surfaces that are on the container.
Note: keeping the sandpit clean and dry is more important than regular disinfecting.

To ensure kids can continue to enjoy time in the sandpit it's important to stay on top of hygiene and to conduct maintenance regularly if not daily. Entrenching your sand pit health and safety policies in a written document may also be worthwhile along with a sandpit cleaning roster.
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