How Safe is Your Home Playground Equipment? Part 3
Inspection and Maintenance Over Time
Backyard playground safety is a significant priority when we plan and construct a backyard playground for our kids and their friends. Just as crucial, though, is the attention we pay to playground safety over time. Playground safety should remain a priority for the duration of the playground equipment’s use. Regular inspection and upkeep of the playground area is essential for keeping children safe through years of active play. By following the guidelines for inspection and maintenance presented in this article, you can increase the safety of your playground equipment, protective playground surface, and the surrounding area, and lessen the possibility of injuries.
Over time, the safety of backyard playground equipment can be undermined by harsh weather conditions and active play. Frequent inspections of the playground equipment and the condition of each part will reduce the likelihood of injuries. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that the following actions be taken to ensure the safety of your backyard playground equipment:
- Check nuts and bolts twice a month and tighten as needed.
- Replace hardware that is worn or that has protrusions or projections.
- Oil moving metal parts as directed by the manufacturer.
- Check to make sure protective caps and plugs that cover bolt ends and ends of tubing are in place and tight. Inspect twice a month and replace as needed.
- Check the condition of the equipment, looking for signs of wear and tear such as broken or missing parts, bent pipes or tubing, and splintering or decaying wooden surfaces.
- Check swing seats, ropes, chains, and cables monthly for deterioration and replace as needed.
- Clean, sand, and repaint rusted areas with a non-lead-based paint.
In addition, sandboxes should be checked often for insects, debris, and dangers such as sharp rocks, sticks, or broken glass. Sandboxes should be covered when not in use to prevent animals from soiling the sand.
The amount of maintenance required for protective playground surfaces will depend on the type of surface you have chosen. Loose-fill surface materials like wood chips, shredded bark mulch, pea gravel, play sand, and recycled rubber mulch require regular raking, and sometimes tilling, to remove rubbish, loosen compacted areas, and level the surface. Also, to maintain the appropriate protective depth of your playground surface, add more material to your existing surface once or twice each year.
Synthetic protective playground surfaces like rubber tiles, rubber mats, and poured-in-place surfaces usually need less maintenance than loose-fill surface materials, but they should be inspected frequently. Look for gouges, burns, or loosened areas, and repair them as needed. Additionally, sand, rocks, leaves, or other loose material should be swept from the protective surface routinely to lower the possibility of slipping hazards.
The area surrounding your backyard playground can become just as dangerous as the equipment and the protective playground surface if not adequately maintained. Keep the area free of litter and any objects that may cause injuries, such as fallen tree limbs, sharp sticks, large rocks, and yard tools. Additionally, adequate drainage should be maintained to prevent water from collecting on and around the protective playground surface. Areas that are often wet can be potential slipping hazards as well as breeding grounds for fungus, mold, and other bacteria.
In summary, take a few minutes each week to inspect your home playground equipment, protective surface, and surrounding area for possible safety issues. Doing so can significantly improve safety conditions for the children who enjoy your backyard playground. Keeping kids safe is paramount, and no measure is too great to assure their well being during their explorative and developmental play. Backyard playground safety is too important to permit any avoidable risk to go undetected.
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Document #323. “Home Playground Safety Tips.”
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Document #324. “Outdoor Home Playground Safety Handbook.” 2005.