Our children’s safety on the playgrounds is not based solely on the original design and equipment installed. It significantly depends on continued maintenance and inspection of the playground equipment as well. Although there is no legal requirement for you to inspect and maintain all the elements in your playground, there are legal ramifications if and when an accident occurs. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
Carrying Out Inspections
A proper inspection should focus not just on the playground equipment but the whole area including benches, walkways, fences and the like. A routine inspection can be carried out by the playground’s manager or staff. Notes should be made on the condition of the playground after every routine inspection. How often the inspection is done will be dependent on the usage of the park. Could be weekly or after every couple of days.
An operation inspection, on the other hand, can be performed quarterly. The essence of this inspection is to identify any vandalism on equipment or minor wear that needs attention. It can be carried out by the playground manager or qualified member of staff.
Lastly, there is the annual inspection. It’s more thorough and should be performed by a specialist who is not affiliated with the playground’s staff or management. The essence of this inspection is to identify any major or minor issues that need fixing, as well as any long-term structural issues that could cause problems in future. It also helps identify any changes that might have occurred altering design practice and standard compliance in the playground. Commercial companies, insurance companies, equipment manufacturers as well as safety organization and often times involved in carrying out the annual inspection.
When Should You Replace Equipment?
Just because it’s broken or malfunctioning, doesn’t mean you must replace it. Sometimes all that's needed is fixing and the equipment will be good as new. However, there are times when replacement is imperative.
- If tear and wear are extensive even to the naked eye, it’s time to replace.
- If the functioning is compromised in a way that could threaten a child’s safety then it’s time to get a new piece of equipment.
- If there is a very high frequency of use on a particular piece of playground equipment that has already had several repairs done to it, the safest thing to do is replace it altogether.
- If any parts of an equipment are missing and are not replaceable, then you might have to change the entire piece of equipment. No matter how small or insignificant the missing part it, it could pose a risk to children.
- Another indication that it might be time to replace equipment is if you start getting complaints or concerns from the users and their caregivers. Children are very intuitive and honest, pay attention to their concerns because they are the ones with the first-hand experience on the equipment and would be ideally the first to notice if there is a change.
Finding a reputable playground equipment installation expert is key to ensuring that the replacement is done properly eliminating all risk of injury to children.