Every playground requires a comprehensive maintenance program. The results of infrequent safety checks and the lack of a consistent preventative maintenance program are unsightly and ill-functioning equipment, playground injuries, and increased liability for your school. There are over 200,000 injuries requiring emergency room treatment annually on public playgrounds. Injuries are most often caused by non-compliant equipment and events, inadequate maintenance, and problems with play surfacing. Since all private schools and church playgrounds are considered public playgrounds, they must comply with the current standards and guidelines for commercial playgrounds.
When to Check
It is recommended that all schools maintain a documented inspection and maintenance program with a periodicity that is based on the frequency and intensity of the playground's use. Administered by your maintenance supervisor, playground monitors can be utilized as your first line of defense. Every day they should do a documented comprehensive spot check of the equipment and surfacing. Before first recess, have them do a walk-through to note any obvious problems or unusual changes. During recess, along with their usual duties of ensuring safe play habits of the kids, they should also be alert for any anomalies in the functioning of the equipment while it is in use.
What to Check
Playground areas and equipment should be inspected for excessive wear, deterioration, and potential hazards that could injure children. Particular attention should be given to moving parts, since wherever there are moving parts, there is the likelihood of friction and deterioration. Levels of surfacing materials need to be maintained for the fall-height requirements of the equipment.
Where to Find Replacement Parts
When a playground needs major repairs or replacement parts, the first source to check is the manufacturer of the equipment you are servicing. However, especially with older equipment, the manufacturer may either be unknown or difficult/impossible to locate. Look for the manufacturer's name and other information on a metal plate somewhere on the event or molded into a major plastic component such as a slide.
If you do not know and cannot locate the manufacturer, a quick Internet search combining keywords "playground" or "swing set" with "hardware" or "parts," will provide a list of many reputable playground specialty parts and accessories companies that will likely have what you require. Avoid purchasing key specialty components such as chain, s-hooks, and c-clamps from your local hardware store since such hardware is not usually warrantied for use in playground equipment.
In the case of very old playground equipment, it is likely that critical replacement parts will be unavailable. If this is the situation, consider retiring and replacing the event. When removing old equipment, it should not be given away or used somewhere else – it must be destroyed. Until it is destroyed, the liability remains with the original owner.
Preventative maintenance is the key to protecting our children from playground injuries. If you don't currently have a maintenance program in place, do not delay – begin one today!
This article is co-authored by Glenn Stockton, President of SwingSetMall.com and MaryLou Iverson of Iverson & Associates. It was featured in the March 2011 issue of Christian School Products Magazine.
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