As your campground season approaches, it is again time to inspect your playground equipment and surrounding area for repairs and upgrades. Unfortunately, with your 24 hour / 7 day a week preparation to get the campground open, playground equipment can often be overlooked. You may not have had any problems in the playground for years, so there is no need to bother with it this spring. Right? But don’t skip it!!! Proper maintenance will help prevent possible injuries as well as extend the life of the equipment. Protect your investment by putting in the proper time and effort in advance.
You should start with the surfacing under the playground equipment. According to the Consumer Product Safety Guidelines, around 200,000 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for playground related injuries. However, this does not take into account the minor injuries that occur on playgrounds that do not warrant a visit to the hospital.
There are many types of surfacing materials that meet the safety guidelines including bark mulch, playground wood chips, fine sand and gravel. Most importantly is to make sure the site has the proper depth of materials. Loose fill materials like bark mulch and gravel will compact and displace which results in an inadequate depth. Therefore, always add at least 25% more than is usually needed to avoid this problem.
The condition/type of playground equipment
Is the tall slide missing a support leg? Not a problem you say because the slide has been in that condition for 10 years with no injuries. Sound familiar? If a piece of equipment doesn’t look safe, it probably isn’t. Climb on top of and under the equipment to truly check the condition of the equipment. Looking at the equipment from 100 feet away will not give you the close up attention that is needed.
Here are a few of the most common items to inspect on your playground….
Metal slides – Are they exposed in the sun? Children can get 3rd degree burns from using a hot slide. Much concern should be for younger children especially, since they may not be aware of the hazard until it is too late. Remove or relocate the slide if such a condition exists.
Loose ropes – Children like climbing up a rope but they may use it incorrectly which could result in strangulation.
Sharp edges, protrusions or splinters - Scrapes and cuts result from equipment that has been damaged or worn over time. Look at the bolts to make sure they are not protruding outward while smoothing rough equipment.
Concrete footing exposed – Has the surfacing worn away or was the concrete around the equipment poured too high? Severe head trauma or worse could result in a child falling on exposed concrete.
Also, look at the type of equipment in your campground. Playground equipment is designed to challenge children but is designed for different ages/abilities. What is appropriate for a 10 year old is not necessarily safe for a three year old. Ideally, you create two play areas for two age groups (2-5 and 5-12). Also, add signage so that children/care givers know what equipment is appropriate.
The playground environment
Finally, look at your play area. Look for rocks, broken glass, beehives, or other issues. Are there weeds growing in the play area? If so, then you know it is time for a comprehensive inspection/plan of action to improve your playground.
Your guests arrive with the expectation that your playground equipment/environment is reasonably safe. While it is not possible to prevent all injures, using a common sense approach about maintenance will minimize such injuries and allow everyone to have a fun and exciting visit, perhaps, for years to come.
This article by Doug Knotts was published in the May 2015 issue of Marshall & Sterling Campground Insurance Program Newsletter.