Keep an eye on play

Proper Maintenance Makes for Safer Playgrounds

By Joe Bush

Recreation Management

Injuries to children from playground activity are unfortunate, and made worse when such mishaps lead to parents' lack of confidence in the playground or the removal of playground equipment.

Suppliers and distributors do their part with research and manufacturing and testing and quality control practices, as well as ongoing customer support. School districts, park districts and other playground operators must take the safety baton from time of purchase.

What are the latest in equipment and surface safety requirements from quality-control organizations and the government? How often should equipment and surfaces be inspected? What maintenance should be done and how frequently?

Ian Proud, a research manager for a Lewisburg, Pa.-based play equipment manufacturer, said maintenance and inspection can be broken into frequency groups: high, low and in-between. High frequency includes picking up litter, tightening connections and making sure that loose surfacing is maintained. Low frequency includes annual audits and inspections by trained professionals.

The company's website says that between the two groups are duties such as touching up the paint on high-traffic equipment that's been scratched and scraped, or installing replacement swing clevises and motion bearings for preventive purposes.

Proud suggested that inspections don't always need to be complicated and time-consuming. For example, a weekly scan for corrosion and wear on points of connection, such as the chain to the swinging mechanisms on swingsets, are effective.

"You can usually see a problem from the beginning on recreational equipment of most kinds," Proud said. "A simple visual check can prevent a dire situation."

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