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…
Pool and Pond Safety [March 2022 Community Associations Journal]
Pool and Pond Safety Standards
We all benefit from time spent around the water. Whether it’s in the form of lakes, ponds, or even swimming pools, science proves that water instils a sense of peace and tranquility within each of us. HOAs often contain all three of these water resources, but proper management and safety precautions are required to reap the benefits. Without pool and pond safety measures, these aquatic ecosystems may become a danger and detriment to your community.
How can we tell? The best approach for validating safe water is periodic water quality analysis. Professional water quality consultants can identify problematic conditions, such as poor dissolved oxygen levels or imbalanced pH, and help determine the best management strategy to make pools and ponds safe for recreational use. There are also some visual ways to determine if a pond is safe for swimming.
Using basic observatory skills and judgment, some “red flags” of unsafe waters can indicate the need for water quality testing. Water color is a good primary indicator of water quality; if it is noticeably different or unusual (i.e. green, soupy-looking), there is likely an issue.
Water color is a primary indicator.
Although green water may indicate an algae bloom, not all algae are green and some can produce harmful toxins. Another red flag is the scent. Foul odors can be produced by harmful factors within the water body and can indicate that something is wrong. A visible fish kill or other wildlife impacts also signal that the waterbody is unfit for use and may need water quality tests to determine pool and pond safety.
Toxic Algae — Toxic algae is not just unsightly, it can be harmful to humans, pets, and other wildlife. Exposure to harmful algal blooms may lead to sickness and permanent physical and neurological ailments. Managing algae is critical to pool and pond safety.
Algae colors vary—not all are green, yet they can produce harmful toxins. Foul odors can also signal harmful factors within the water body and indicate that something is wrong.
The best approach for validating safe water quality is periodic water analysis. Ongoing water quality testing can reveal a wealth of information, including problematic ecological changes. Early identification allows professionals to intervene before imbalances get out of hand.
Is recreation safe in deep water?
Deep water can be beneficial in lakes and ponds. In fact, deeper water is usually desirable. Greater depths are associated with fewer flooding events, more abundant fish and wildlife, and, in some cases, fewer algae and odor problems.
Deeper water comes with fewer flooding events, more abundant fish and wildlife, and, in some cases, fewer algae and odor problems.
Lakes and ponds with more depth are also deemed “younger,” meaning they shouldn’t require dredging for many years. This is a process of muck and sediment removal that restores an aging pond but is extremely invasive and costly for a community association.
Nonetheless, deep water can be dangerous for residents, particularly children. Less visibility in the water column makes it more difficult to recognize underwater hazards like stormwater equipment, tree branches, debris, and even steep drop-offs. Aquatic weeds may also be submerged below the surface. Hydrilla, milfoil, and other nuisance plants have been known to drown swimmers, including experienced athletes. Best practices like cleaning plant material from kayaks, nets, toys, and water equipment will help prevent the spread of invasive species.
Lower visibility in deep water makes it more difficult to recognize underwater hazards.
How can residents enjoy waterbodies safely?
Installing docks and gazebos around the water is an excellent way to encourage residents to safely enjoy fishing, feeding ducks, and nature watching. It’s also beneficial to establish clear, durable paths to the water to prevent residents from venturing into unsafe areas.
This can be accomplished naturally by planting beneficial plants like blueflag iris, cardinal flower, and native sedges and rushes. Allowing them to grow at least 18 in. high and 3-5 ft. from the shoreline will create a visually-appealing buffer while preventing sediment, trash, and pollutants from flowing into the water during rainstorms. And if shoreline sediment has eroded significantly, professional bioengineering solutions may be required to restore stability and aesthetics. The waterbody shoreline is a significant element in pool and pond safety.
Shoreline Restoration — No matter how well a waterbody is managed, ecological balance cannot be achieved without a healthy shoreline. Addressing erosion problems first will help set your waterbody up for continued success.
Pool and Pond Safety Education
This should go hand-in-hand with education about water safety. Knowledgeable residents are able to make more informed decisions and be more vigilant when spending time around lakes, ponds, and pools with their families. It’s essential for communities to post proper signage around water resources.
Likewise, it’s important to wear life jackets, use sunscreen, avoid diving and running near the water, refrain from swimming past dusk, and make sure a lifeguard or chaperone is always present. More pool and pond safety tips can be found at www.safekids.org.
It’s essential for communities to post proper signage around all water resources.
Community Pond — Community lakes and ponds can be a valuable asset for HOAs, apartment complexes, and other residential communities, but improper management can make them a liability.
Consistency is Key for Pool and Pond Safety
While good judgment and observation can offer a lot of information, responsible maintenance will make the biggest difference. Water management is most impactful and cost-effective when conducted on a consistent basis.
Experts can apply sustainable strategies such as nutrient mitigation, beneficial bacteria applications, aeration and oxygenation solutions.
This allows experts to monitor aquatic conditions and quickly address them with sustainable strategies like nutrient mitigation, beneficial bacteria applications, aeration and oxygenation solutions, and—as a last resort—EPA-registered herbicides or algaecides, which can be applied by professional drones for increased safety and efficiency.
Trent is an Aquatic Specialist at SOLitude Lake Management. He focuses on helping property managers and communities maintain healthy, balanced aquatic ecosystems and enjoys educating them on the importance of sustainable freshwater management. Trent has spent more than a dozen years working closely with homeowner’s associations, golf courses, and municipalities.