Playground Inspections [April 2022 Community Associations Journal]
Watching my granddaughters have fun, playground inspections, repairs, safety standards, and maintenance are the last things on my mind. When I think of playgrounds, I think of kids having fun—climbing, swinging, sliding, zip-lining, etc., the list goes on and on. There are so many amazing playground features now! Kids aren’t thinking about how safe playground equipment might be, they just want to see how fast they can slide, how high they can climb, and how high they can get the swing to go.
Many adults are also focussed on the fun the kids are having. While we may be able to look at some equipment and immediately know it isn’t safe to play on, there are significant hidden playground inspection elements that most of us are relying on someone else to have checked for so that we can just let the kids play. Find playground equipment professionals in the WSCAI Business Directory.
Playground Inspections for Everyone’s Safety
Unless you have taken a playground safety course, most people don’t know the minimum depth of protective surfacing that is required under playground equipment. Without the correct protective surfacing, a fall can turn from a fractured arm or leg to a severe head injury or death. While the protective surfacing isn’t meant to stop any and all injuries, it can greatly reduce the severity of the injury if adequately installed and maintained.
According to The National Recreation and Park Association, more than 200,000 children are injured due to playground accidents, and another 15 die due to injuries suffered while playing at a park. Many of these injuries could be avoided with the use of playground inspections.
According to the National Recreation and Park Association, more than 200,000 children are injured in playground accidents.
The National Recreation and Park Association has created a Playground Maintenance Course that provides an overview of playground safety standards and guidelines on responsibilities, maintenance, surfacing, and other playground inspection items. This course is great for maintenance staff or those responsible for playground maintenance and safety.
Figure 1: Creating Play Appeal — Making a good first impression counts, the disc swing looks like fun in this picture! But just because it looks safe, doesn’t mean it is safe. When you take a much closer look, you realize that there was a safety concern. (See Figure 2)
Figure 2: Not Safe After All — One of the screws supporting the swing’s weight had been loosened and the other screw was entirely missing. This swing was immediately closed until a repair could be made. Such findings and consequent repairs prevent undue hazards.
They offer a program to become a Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI), which provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date training on playground safety issues.
Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI)
In addition, there is also a program to become a Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI), which provides the most comprehensive and up-to-date training on playground safety issues including hazard identification, equipment specifications, surfacing requirements, and risk management methods.
The more often playground inspections are done, the more likely you are to prevent accidents.
CPSI’s provide a detailed and thorough inspection of playgrounds so that if there is a safety concern, it can be addressed prior to anyone getting hurt. The more often these are done, the more likely you are to prevent an accident, but of course, there are limitations. We have had inspections done and the following day received reports of safety concerns due to vandalism.
Playground Safety & Inspection Frequency
Our community has nine playgrounds. The onsite staff have taken the playground safety course and do weekly inspections of the parks.
We also have monthly playground inspections done by a CPSI that inspects every bolt, screw, s-hook, post, footing, clamp, enclosure, (the list goes on and on and on) to ensure that the playgrounds are in safe condition. The additional safety inspections help find hidden items that onsite staff have missed.
Figure 3: Inadequate Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF) — An example of a playground with inadequate engineered wood fiber (EWF). The red lines on the equipment legs should not be seen and should be covered by the EWF.
Safety, Liability, & Visual Appeal
The ultimate benefit of playground inspections by far is keeping the playgrounds in good condition for the safety of the children who use them. In addition, the community’s liability is greatly reduced by their due diligence in ensuring that the equipment and the playground are well-maintained and safe. Of course, kids can still fall or get hurt, but records of proper inspections and maintenance show that your community’s playground was in good order and safety concerns were not neglected.
With annual (minimum) playground inspections by a trained CPSI and monthly maintenance inspections, potential problems can be addressed before they result in any injuries.
Regularly inspected playgrounds are not only more visually appealing, but they are also much safer and reduce risk to the users. Playgrounds are an important part of providing children with the safe and healthy playtime that they need. By having an annual (at a minimum) inspection by a Certified Playground Inspector in addition to a minimum of monthly maintenance inspections, you will find that potential problems can be addressed before they result in any injuries.
Sandy Cobb has been the Onsite Director for the Redmond Ridge ROA since 2012. When Sandy is not working, she enjoys spending time with her 4 granddaughters and is also a foster parent to two little girls. Sandy uses her little bit of spare time to sleep…