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Playground Safety: Installation

Date Published: Apr, 07 2014

Purchasing a playground is a major investment that signifies a commitment to the health and happiness of children in your community. Although planning and purchasing a playground is always exciting, everyone wants to know that they received the best deal as well as the best product. It can be extremely tempting to try and cut corners and save your budget for equipment but a proper installation is well worth every penny.

Installing a Safe Playground

Even most well designed structure can pose a threat to safety if bolts are left untightened or used in the wrong place leaving exposed threads. Every playground should come with a complete installation and care manual but real world conditions, inattention to detail and simple confusion can turn a DIY install into a disaster. Frequently, when an installation has been botched, professionals charge nearly as much or more to disassemble and re-install equipment. Sometimes, equipment even ends up damaged and has to be replaced, adding unexpected and unwanted costs.

If you want competitive prices for your installation do not be afraid to shop around but be sure you are comparing apples to apples. National Playground Construction, a BYO affiliate, has a network of crews who specialize in playground installation and each crew member is a Certified Playground Safety Inspector. There are many contractors across the country who are skilled at installing commercial playground equipment and they understand the uniquely complex installation process. The services provided by specialized installation companies or experienced professionals are not comparable to the services of inexperienced contractors or handymen.

When taking bids for your job, ask to see examples of playgrounds they have installed and ask for references, past clients who are willing to share their experiences working with the installation team. You should always choose licensed and insured professionals with a good standing in your community. If your contractor isn't a Certified Playground Safety Inspector, stipulate that one inspect the playground after installation is complete so that any issues can be addressed immediately.

What will Professional Playground Installers focus on?

If you choose a reputable playground design company, they should include a site plan for your project. Professional installers will use this plan as a guide to ensure that your equipment is properly spaced. Each piece of playground equipment has a prescribed use zone. Use zones are areas surrounding the equipment that are considered in use during normal play. Proper use zones ensure that children using different pieces of equipment don't fall onto each other and that a child can't fall from one piece of equipment onto another, greatly reducing the risk of injury. A good designer can manipulate use zones and playground layout to fit more equipment safely into a smaller space. This effort is wasted if the installation is done improperly.

Your playground installation professional will understand how to properly prepare the site, ensuring that you playground remains stable. Playgrounds that are installed over soil need to have the area excavated and the proper subbase in place before any equipment can be installed. Preparing the site and subbase requires choosing materials and processes to match your specific site. Pros know all the tricks to ensure that your playground drains properly without washing away your subbase, which would cause you playground to shift over time.

Every playground is required to have an approved safety surfacing in order to meet the Consumer Product Safety Commission's guidelines. Even if you select a loose fill product, like engineered wood fiber mulch, ensuring that it prevents critical head injuries requires specialized knowledge. The depth of any safety surfacing is dependent on the fall height of the equipment. Fall height is the distance a child can fall when using the highest piece of equipment. An 8 foot structure will require more safety surfacing than ground level equipment, such as balance beams. A well planned and executed playground can help you cut costs safely by varying the depth of surfacing to match the fall height of each individual piece of equipment.

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