Ten Steps to Safer Play
It is warm outside...time to play! Unfortunately, while the playground was sitting there under fall leaves and winter snow last year, it may have suffered a little bit and might not be entirely safe to play on. Before letting children on the playground, it is a good idea to give it a close inspection first.
ONE: Playground equipment should be cleaned periodically with a good power washer and soft bristle brush to keep it looking attractive, sanitary and mildew-free. Mold eradication may require the use of a mild cleaner. One rule of thumbcDo not use any chemical cleaner that you would not use in the diaper area of a daycare center. It is important to remove mold, as it can be harmful to children with asthma or other respiratory ailments.
TWO: This is a good time to refresh the sand in any sandboxes. Sift through the existing sand to remove any foreign matter and add new sand as required.
THREE: Review all plants growing near the playground. Are there branches growing through the fence that need to be trimmed? Are weeds growing in the playground area that need to be pulled? Is that pretty green vine growing near that tree poison oak or poison ivy? If your playground area is shaded by trees, check for low-hanging branches that children may be able to reach from the upper decks.
ASTM F1487 requires an overhead clearance of at least 84 inches from the designated playground surface. Also, any dead/dying branches should be removed. Falling branches can seriously injury children, or, at the very least, cause considerable costly damage to your playground equipment.
FOUR: Just as one sock disappears in the dryer for no explainable reason, so too do nuts and bolts on playground equipment loosen up even though the equipment has not been in use. Therefore, it is important to regularly check all connections for loose hardware and tighten as needed.
If a bolt needs replacing, be sure to replace it with appropriate hardwarecdonft just use some old bolt that was in the bottom of the toolbox. The head of the bolt should be tamper-proof. As part of your maintenance kit, you should have received a bit that fits the particular bolt head used by the manufacturer. If it has been lost, contact your playground provider for replacement information.
FIVE: Be sure to check the S-hooks on swing sets. The opening on any S-hook should be no more than 1mm or .04 (about the thickness of a credit card).
SIX: Rope climbers should also be carefully checked to make sure that none of the connections have loosened or slipped. Look for worn areas that need replacing. Although advances in materials have been made, rope still has a tendency to stretch and wear more quickly than other materials.
SEVEN: Once all connections have been checked, go over all metal parts (rails, decks, ramps, stairs) and look for rust. While the coating used on metal parts is very durable, it may chip with use, leaving the underlying metal exposed. To prolong the life of your playground equipment investment, touch-up any exposed metal with a rust inhibitive paint. If the metal already shows signs of rust, you may need to use a rust remover, wire brush and some elbow grease to prepare the spot for painting.
EIGHT: Is the playground surfacing clean and debris-free? Depending upon how much public access there is to your playground, you can easily find cigarette butts, bottle caps, broken glass and other less-savory litter mixed in with loose surfacing materials.
NINE: Loose mulch can settle, wash away and wear away in high-traffic areas (such as under swings and at the end of slides). Problem areas may be eliminated by raking the mulch from where it may have piled-up into any vulnerable areas. However, it may be necessary to purchase additional mulch on a regular basis to keep your playground area safe.
TEN: To clean poured-in-place rubber safety surfacing, use a broom, vacuum, blower or hose to remove loose debris such as sand, dirt, leaves, tree sap, chewing gum, bird droppings, etc. A pressure washer can be used, but carefullycit should not exceed 1500 PSI, and you should keep the spray nozzle at least 12 inches from the surface.
It is assumed the initial equipment installation was done by professionals, who certified that equipment was installed properly. If in doubt, it is suggested you have the playground fully inspected by a Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI). CPSI testing is a program of the National Recreation and Parks Association.
For more than 25 years, EcoPlay Playgrounds has been custom-designing, manufacturing and installing commercial playground equipment and site amenities, www.ecoplaygrounds.com.