Playgrounds provide tremendous opportunities for children of all ages and abilities. Unfortunately, they are the site of serious accidental injuries. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission there are more than 200,000 children injured on America’s playgrounds each year. Many of these accidents could be prevented by having a playground safety, maintenance and inspection program.
Inspections need to happen on a routine basis. A comprehensive maintenance program should be developed for each specific playground. It should include staff training, use of inspection checklists, prompt repair of discovered problems and detailed documentation. Plans should be based on manufacturer’s recommendations and CPSC guidelines. The Public Playground Safety Handbook from CPSC has several maintenance inspection checklists that could be used.
Below is a simple public playground safety inspection checklist from CPSC:
- Make sure surfaces around playground equipment have at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, or pea gravel, or are mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials.
- Check that protective surfacing extends at least 6 feet in all directions from play equipment. For swings, be sure surfacing extends, in back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar.
- Check for dangerous hardware, like open "S" hooks or protruding bolt ends.
- Look out for tripping hazards, like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.
- Make sure elevated surfaces, like platforms and ramps, have guardrails to prevent falls.
- Check playgrounds regularly to see that equipment and surfacing are in good condition.
- Carefully supervise children on playgrounds to make sure they're safe.
A good inspection program is always followed by good recordkeeping. Detailed documentation of all maintenance inspections and repairs should be retained. A record of any accident and injury reported to have occurred should also be kept. This will help identify potential hazards or dangerous design features that should be corrected.
Important links with information you should know.
NPPS, National Program for Playground Safety
CPSC, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. These guidelines are recognized as "standard of care" that should be followed by professionals in the field.
ASTM, American Society for Testing and Materials . They have over 140 technical standards-writing committees and represent many diverse industries.
ADA, The Americans with Disabilities Act. As of March 15, 2011 all play areas should be in compliance with these guidelines.
IPEMA, the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association, provides 3rd party Product Certification services for U.S. and Canadian public play equipment and public play surfacing materials in the U.S.
BCI Burke’s maintenance recommendations "Playground Maintenance and Inspection Guide".
Poured-in-Place maintenance from Surface America.
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