Playgrounds require regular maintenance in order to remain safe, clean, and available for children and families to enjoy. The director of facilities, custodial staff, park staff, or volunteers can all be sent to take care of basic playground maintenance. Outside contractors may also be hired for specific audits and repairs. In order to properly maintain a playground, it’s necessary to inspect all of the surfaces, equipment, and accessories on the playground.
Depending on location and the amount of traffic your playground sees, you’ll need to visit at least once a week to pick up litter or clean up after bad weather. Check for any items in need of immediate repair or solutions: burnt out light bulbs, graffiti, vandalism, or obviously damaged equipment, for example. At least once a month a playground requires a more comprehensive inspection by the staff. Take time to evaluate equipment for damage or wear and tear. Document this damage and the steps needed to fix it. If you keep track of the maintenance needed at these visits, you will be able to better predict and possibly reduce your maintenance costs in the future. And each year, you need to conduct a full, formal audit of your playground equipment. These inspections evaluate the safety of the playground and scan impact the park’s standing with its insurance provider, so any issues found during this assessment should be dealt with quickly.
Playground Surface Maintenance
Caring for all surfaces will have a positive impact the overall safety and usability of your playground. Existing surfaces require careful care throughout the year to keep them as safe as possible. This includes:
- Asphalt and concrete, which requires regular power washing. You should also check for any broken glass that has become embedded in the ground. Take a look around for insect infestations and any weeds poking through.
- Packed earth or grass need an evaluation of soil health. You’ll need to keep up with mowing these surfaces. During the spring and summer, keep an eye on dangerous weeds and allergen-producing plants. Look for poison ivy and poison oak, and ensure that they are removed as quickly as possible. Take a look out for insect infestations, including dangerous bees. Make sure to get rid of thorny bushes and stinging plants, which could prove dangerous or highly uncomfortable for children.
- Wood chips, mulch, and shredded rubber need to be raked out and replenished semi annually. Thoroughly check these surfaces for hazardous materials, especially grass. Make sure that you’re maintaining the required height for your mulch or wood chips so that kids have a safe surface to play on.
- Rubber mats should be evaluated for tears or granulation. Look carefully to make sure that no sharp objects have been embedded in the surface.
In many playgrounds, hard surfaces like asphalt, concrete, packed earth, and grass are common. Children who fall and land on these surfaces, however, may easily be bruised or end up with muscle sprains, broken bones, or other serious injury. As you inspect the playground surfaces, consider replacing them with safer options such as wood chips, mulch, shredded rubber, sand, or rubber mats. These surfaces offer a softer impact, lowering the chances of severe injury.
Playground Equipment Maintenance
Metal playground structures need to be inspected regularly for key issues. Check for loose anchoring. Evaluate metal structures for broken equipment, including missing end caps, loose or missing bolts, or cracked tubing. Look for worn, missing, or loose parts, and check for any rust or corrosion. You should also check for any twisted or weakened chains on swings, which can impact their integrity. Moving metal parts and their connections also require lubricants to perform smoothly and quietly, with no squeaks. Silicone washers are traditionally used, but these must be replaced when they wear out.
It’s important to check wooden playground structures regularly for any signs of damage. Look for:
- Rot, including a damp, musty smell that doesn’t go away even in dry weather or signs of mold or spore growth on the wood.
- Insect damage, including holes in the wood or strong, obvious insect presence. Insect presence may also show up as tunnels in the wood.
- Protruding nails.
- Holes, splinters, or gouges.
- Split wood.
- Missing or damaged bolts, nails, or lag screws.
There are several methods you can use to help take care of your wooden playground structures. Linseed oil helps prevent splintering, while pressure-treated surfaces an be finished with a water repellent deck finish to help keep them sealed and safer.
Other Park Features
Plastic playground structures and accessories throughout the park need to be checked for scratches, cracks, and thinning surfaces. It’s important to look out for splits in plastic surfaces, especially seating areas, which can pitch playground goers. Take a look at your fencing: make sure that you’ve closed any gaps, strengthened weakening sections, and fixed water damage to the fence. Curious kids can quickly get stuck in fences with holes and gaps. Make sure to regularly examine any ropes and chains on your playground. Look for frayed or rusted ropes and chains in particular. You should also evaluate your playground for setups that could increase strangulation risk.
There are several areas that many people miss when conducting playground maintenance. Make sure you check out these often overlooked areas:
- Standing water in tires. This is a breeding ground for irritating insects and can make it difficult for parents and children to enjoy the park.
- Poor drainage. Not only is this a potential breeding ground for those same irritating insects, it can also make parts of the playground unusable after a heavy rain.
Every year, over 200,000 children are treated in emergency rooms for injuries sustained on playgrounds. Proper playground maintenance, on the other hand, can significantly reduce the number of children who are injured on your playground each year. On a well-maintained playground, children are free to play and express themselves. Local playgrounds can enrich and strengthen the community–and proper playground maintenance can significantly reduce your risk of complaints and lawsuits, making it well worth your while.