Importance of Maintenance Practices
A comprehensive maintenance plan should ideally be developed before a playground is constructed. This plan should include who will perform the inspections, how often the inspections occur, and what type of inspections will be performed.
An agency should designate a person to maintain the play area. Without such a designation, the routine maintenance necessary to help prevent injuries may never occur. Examples of maintenance personnel include: center directors, school administrators, facility managers, safety officers, custodians, health professionals, head teachers, or playground associates.
Establishing a Schedule
Reputable manufacturers that follow ASTM standards and CPSC guidelines will have a recommended inspection and maintenance program for the equipment they sell. This information will form the framework for the inspection and maintenance processes.
Beyond the manufacturers’ recommendations, the frequency of inspections depends on other variables, including the size and type of equipment, age and frequency of repairs on the equipment, materials used, playground usage, vandalism, accidents, and types of inspections performed:
- Age: The older the equipment, the greater the maintenance problems.
- Size and Type: Large pieces of equipment with many nuts and bolts, as well as moving parts will need to be inspected on a more frequent schedule than pieces of equipment with smaller parts. The more connecting parts on equipment, the greater the possibility that a fastener or joint support can work itself loose through normal use.
- Use: How often the equipment is used also determines the frequency of inspections. However, keep in mind one caution: If the equipment is available to children, they will use it. Don’t fail to inspect a school playground during the summer just because school’s not in session, and don’t ignore a park playground in winter just because it’s cold outside.Vandalism can cause problems overnight.
- Vandalism: In areas where vandalism is a major problem, playgrounds may need more frequent inspections. At certain times of the year, vandalism may be more problematic. For instance around Halloween sharp objects sometimes appear on slides or loose fill surfacing. At the end of the summer, young people show their displeasure about going back to school by destroying property. Good maintenance practices can also help prevent vandalism. A psychological phenomenon known as quality of use affects the actions of many people. Human beings respond to visual cues in the environment in terms of our actions and behaviors.
Types of Inspections
Besides frequency of inspections, it is important to note that two types of inspections should take place on a playground:routine and periodic. A routine inspection is a cursory look at the play area to check that it is safe for children. This type of inspection is done frequently (either daily or weekly). A periodic inspection is much more detailed. An NPPS Certified Playground Inspector should complete the periodic inspection.