Playgrounds are a major investment and a key part of creating and maintaining a community that focuses on healthly recreation. Whether you are in charge of maintaining a playground for a school, church or community, you should familiarize yourself with basic maintenance requirements to assure you maintain a safe play environment. We have covered the different playground components in previous blog posts and encourage you to treat each part of your playground with equal care.
The largest equipment on playgrounds, called 'structures,' combine many of the maintenance concerns of independent play equipment along with their own special care. The complexity of your maintenance routine will be determined by how large your structure is and what types of components it incorporates. Even the largest structures should not require more than a few hours of maintenance a year.
The most dangerous accidents on playgrounds result in entanglement or entrapment. Entanglement most frequently happens when clothing, rope or fabric becomes tied or tangled on equipment. Although hooded sweatshirts and other loose clothing is the biggest factor in entanglement, you can minimize risks by ensuring that there are no bolts or screws protruding and that any rope, string or ribbon that children may have tied onto the structure is removed immediately.
Entrapment occurs when a body part cannot easily be removed from or pass through equipment. Older equipment may have gaps built into the design that are no longer considered safe and any equipment over 10 years old should be inspected by a certified playground safety inspector. The inspector will use a set of templates to test the openings on your playground equipment to determine that they are neither too small nor too wide for safe use.
There are any number of other hazards that can occur as your playground is exposed to time, rough play and environmental changes. Each year you should examine the underside of your structure to safely remove any insect or wasp nests before they can become a danger. Remember that if a child can get in or under something, they will. The safest course of action is to treat your entire playground as a play area and always remove anything that doesn't belong.
Like anything else, your playground will benefit tremendously from being regularly maintained. Cover any scratched or chipped paint with a fresh coat of touch up paint to prevent rusting, clean off any built up dirt or grime and clean moving parts so that they move smoothly. Also be sure to check that any loose joints, bolt or pins are closed and remove any equipment that is damaged beyond repair. Check your surfacing to ensure that loose fill has not become swept away and replenish it as needed.
All together, you will probably spend less time maintaining your playground equipment than you will sweeping up leaves or removing trash each year. However, taking the time to make sure that your playground equipment is properly maintained will greatly extend its life.
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