Ensuring the safety of backyard swing sets and playgrounds is a major concern when we plan and construct a backyard playground to be used by the children in our lives. Just as important, though, is the attention we pay to playground safety over many years. Playground safety should continue to be a priority over the life of the playground equipment’s use. Regular inspection and upkeep of the home playground area is crucial for ensuring the safety of children over years of active play. By following the guidelines for inspection and maintenance presented in this post, you can increase the safety of your playground equipment, protective playground surface, and the surrounding area, and lessen the possibility of injuries.
Over extended periods of time, the safety of backyard playground equipment can be challenged by harsh weather conditions and active play. Frequent inspections of the playground equipment and the condition of each part can reduce the possibility that injuries will occur. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that specific guidelines be followed to ensure the safety of your backyard playground equipment:
- Test for any loose nuts and bolts twice a month and tighten as needed.
- Replace hardware that is damaged or worn or that has protrusions or projections.
- Oil moving metal parts as directed by the manufacturer.
- Check to be sure that 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.
- Inspect and test 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 keep animals from contaminating the sand.
The amount of upkeep needed 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. In addition, maintaining the proper depth of your protective playground surface means adding 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 require less upkeep than loose-fill surface materials, but they should be checked often. Look for gouges, burns, or loosened areas, and have them fixed as needed. Also, sand, rocks, leaves, or other loose material should be swept from the protective surface routinely to lessen the possibility of slipping hazards.
The space surrounding your home playset 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 which are frequently moist or wet can be potential slipping hazards as well as hotbeds of fungus, mold, and other bacteria.
To sum up, make a point to set aside a few minutes each week to inspect your home playground equipment, protective surface, and surrounding area for possible safety issues. Doing so can greatly improve safety conditions for the children who enjoy your backyard playground. Keeping kids safe is the overriding objective, and no measure is too great to assure their well being during their explorative and developmental play. Backyard playground safety is too important to allow 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.