Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Playground Maintenance

What type maintenance is required for my play equipment?

In your scheduled inspections you should document and take corrective action on all issues you observe. Inspections must be thorough, detailed and objective. Picking up litter is an on the spot activity, but you may find other problems that need parts or repair. Hazards may require that you take an activity or entire structure out of service until it is repaired. Repairs should be made in compliance to manufacturer recommendations. At some point in the life of the equipment you may need to assess the value of repair versus replacement. While it is often a greater expense to replace equipment, we can not place a value on the safety of our children.

Surfacing should be checked regularly to ensure surfacing has not displaced significantly, particularly in areas of the playground most subject to displacement (heavy traffic areas). Displaced loose-fill surfacing should be raked back into proper place so that a constant depth is maintained throughout the playground area.

Key points to look for during regular checks of surfacing:
  • Areas under swings and at slide exits. Activity in these areas tend to displace surfacing quickly. Rake loose-fill surfacing back in place.
  • Pooling water on mulch surfacing. Wet mulch compacts faster then dry, fluffy mulch. If puddles are noticed regularly, consideraddressing drainage issues.
  • Frozen surfacing. Most loose-fill surfacing that freezes solid no longer functions as protective surfacing. Even if the first few inchesare loose, the base layer may be frozen and the impact attenuation of the surfacing may be significantly reduced.

This is NOT a complete safety evaluation of the playground equipment, such as risk of falls from equipment or moving impact incidents. Also, please be aware that playgrounds that are designed, installed and maintained in accordance with safety guidelines and standards can still present hazards to children in the absence of adequate supervision.

An inspection and maintenance program is a requirement of playground ownership. Whether you have multiple large facilities with numerous equipment or one piece of equipment or fall somewhere in between, it is your responsibility as a playground owner/operator to inspect and maintain your equipment. Because the safety of playground equipment and its suitability for use depend on good inspection and maintenance,a comprehensive maintenance program for each playground must be developed and strictly followed. All playground areas and equipment should be inspected frequently for potential hazards, paying special attention to moving parts and other components which can be expected to wear. Inspections should be carried out in a systematic manner by trained personnel familiar with the playground area, such as maintenanceworkers, playground supervisors, etc. Inspections alone do not constitute a comprehensive maintenance program. Any damaged or worn parts, or any other hazards identified during inspection must be repaired or replaced before allowing children to use the playground equipment.Implementing an inspection and maintenance program is of the utmost importance and requires the full cooperation from the owner down to the playground supervisors. The importance of this program should be understood and supported by all members of administration,maintenance and the inspection staff as well as the playground supervisors.  All information pertaining to the equipment should be kept on file(e.g., manufacturer of equipment, sales representative information, sales brochures, date of purchase, sales paperwork, shipping paperwork,drawings, bill of materials/packing list, installation instructions, date of installation, installer information, warranty information, etc. A record of any accident or injury reported to have occurred on the playground equipment should also be retained. ).The frequency of inspection and maintenance will be determined by several factors, such as the amount of use the equipment receives, theage of the children playing on the equipment, the age of the equipment and the area in which the equipment is installed. However, the more the equipment is inspected, the better the chances of finding and correcting any potential problems. A recorded inspection schedule should be adhered to and a copy signed and kept on file. New sites and equipment should be added to the inspection schedule. Training must be an ongoing commitment. The inspection report will serve as a report card against your audit and action plan. The audit will continue to play a major role in the inspection and maintenance program by measuring progress using statistics, actions taken and actions recommended.We recommend that you enlist the services of a Certified Playground Safety Inspector to assist you with auditing your equipment and developing an inspection and maintenance plan to suit your individual needs. He or she will also be able to assist in the development of short term plans as well as long term plans in response to equipment that is broken, damaged, missing, vandalized, worn, etc.
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