The opening of many new playgrounds and play centres all over the country, and the ongoing operation of some existing ones, has been thrown into doubt because of an insurance related problem.

The only remaining company providing independent inspection and certification services to such facilities in the Republic has had bodily injury cover withdrawn from its professional indemnity insurance by its insurer.

Lisburn-based Play Services Ireland Ltd (PSI) said the development means it will no longer be in a position to certify new outdoor and indoor playgrounds when they are ready to open, a key requirement for operators of such facilities to have in order to meet their insurance, health and safety requirements.

The company also carries out periodic inspections for councils and community groups, a service it claims it can no longer offer without bodily injury cover, which is used to meet claims arising against it from injuries sustained in playgrounds and play centres.

"I could get implicated in a claim along with possibly the council or the owner of the playground, and possibly the manufacturer of the playground and the installer, the contractor," said Mel Campbell, owner of PSI.

"Because of this issue there is the potential that playgrounds could close because the owners of the playgrounds cannot get the playgrounds insured, maintained or even built."

PSI has already stopped inspecting council playgrounds and is only certifying new facilities.

"I have to seriously consider my position and my business going forward and how I am going to inspect playgrounds without that risk," said Mr Campbell.

"I need assurances from insurance companies, from the playground owners that I am going to be used as the expert to assist them and not the problem."

In addition to losing its bodily injury cover, PSI says it has seen its insurance premium rise six-fold over the past five years.

The development will also have knock-on effects for contractors who build playgrounds and play centres, as they will not be able to hand over completed facilities to their customers unless certification has been achieved and therefore will not be able to get paid.

"It is going to have a huge effect," said Conor Burke, Managing Director of Wexford based Spraoi Linn, which builds and installs playgrounds all over the country and employs 10 staff.

"We won't be able to sign off. They really have to be signed off by an independent inspector and there are now none in Ireland."

Mr Burke said the issue comes on top of a six-fold increase in his firm's insurance premiums in the last five years, from €15,000 to €92,000.

Play centre operators say it would create a major difficulty for them if there were no longer inspections available.

"It is very important to our play centre and every other play centre that the equipment is checked by a qualified inspector for a number of reasons," said Tommy Gill, chief executive of Play Activity Leisure Ireland (PALI) and owner of Wild West play centre in Westport, Co Mayo.

These include guaranteeing to customers that the environment is safe, that regulations are complied with and also because it helps reduce their own insurance costs.

"Should we not have somebody to carry out a certified inspection once a year, it certainly would prove difficult," he said.

"Our sector is very concerned, not only with this development but also with the wider insurance developments. Our sector is in crisis."

In a statement, the Local Government Management Agency which represents local authorities around the country, said playgrounds owned or maintained by its members are certified and inspected in line with safety standards and insurance requirements.

"Independent playground inspection services are carried out by a number of qualified and competent suppliers," it said in a statement.

"We are not aware that any inspection or certification provider has informed a local authority client that they will no longer be providing the service."

However, IPB, the mutual insurer that provides insurance to many local authorities said it has been actively engaged with its policyholders since the matter first came to its attention.

"We are working closely with all our impacted customers to secure a solution that will enable the ongoing safe operation of these facilities in the interest of all stakeholders involved," it said.