You got your playground. Check. Kids love it. Check. But is it still safe? We’re going to go through some playground maintenance basics that need to be done on your playground. Here are some of the most common maintenance tasks that you’ll need to do:
- Check your surfacing
- Keep up with your swing hardware
- Look over your equipment
- Remove damaged equipment as soon as possible
- Create a playground maintenance file
- Have a Certified Playground Safety Inspector check your playground
Check your surfacing
There are two main types of surfacing available on the market today: unitary and loose fill. Your maintenance will depend upon your type of surfacing. Here are the most common types of surfacing:
- Poured in place rubber
- Rubber tiles
- Artificial grass
- Rubber mulch
- Engineered wood fiber (wood carpet)
- Wood mulch
- Pea gravel
Unitary surfacing maintenance is typically much easier and is often touted as low or no maintenance. While all three types have very different care, it is always best to check with your manufacturer to make sure you’re following proper care for their specific surface. One of the most important things to ask for from your manufacturer is which chemicals can be used on it. Bleach and other harsh chemicals typically cannot be used on these types of surfacing. Additionally, pressure washing can ruin the surface requiring it to be gently swept off and then rinsed with water.
On the other hand, loose fill surfacing needs to be checked on a daily or weekly basis based on your playground’s foot traffic. While loose fill is much cheaper than unitary surfaces, it requires vigilance and raking to maintain proper fall protection. Another issue with it is that it will need to be refilled over time. The levels will eventually fall from kids accidentally carrying it home in shoes to it just being kicked into the grass on the sides.
Wood mulch and engineered wood fiber face a much more pointed problem of deterioration. It will start to break down and will need to be topped off on an annual or near-annual basis.
Keep up with your swing hardware
Swings are fun, but they require a close eye. While they can last months or years, depending upon the usage and weather, they will need to have parts changed out eventually. One of the most common changes you will need to make is to the pendulum on the swing hangers. This is just a small portion of the larger hanger and it bears the brunt of the stress from a swinging child. This needs to be checked on a weekly or monthly basis just to keep an eye on the wear. The pendulum features a small bronze ring inside that stands out against the silver color of the rest of the hardware. Once that ring has become thin or disappeared, it is time to change it out.
Another part that may need to be changed out fairly often is the swing chains. These are often zinc coated steel making it fairly weather resistant. But over time, the weather will win and they will need to be changed. This will happen less frequently than the pendulums.
All swing connectors and hangers may need to be replaced at some point. If you’re using S-hooks, they may also need to be closed occasionally as the force can slowly open them. They also need to be replaced whenever the swing chain or seat is changed. The other types of shackles on the market can be reused as long as you have the correct Allen wrench.
Finally, swing seats will wear out. This comes back to how often they are used and the weather of your area. One of the most common wear points on a swing is on the thinnest edges in the front of the swing. While a swing doesn’t have a front or a back, it is normally the portion facing the playground as children like to face their friends as they swing. This edge will split over time exposing the steel in the middle. Simply watch for the wear and as it gets close to splitting, replace!
Look over your equipment
The wording might sound vague and general, but that is quite literally what you’re doing. When looking over the equipment in your playground look for the following:
- Loose screws, nuts, and bolts
- Missing screws, nuts, and bolts
- Worn pieces of equipment that might break or have already broken
- Sagging or distorted pieces/places
If you find any of these things, it’s important to make a note of where you found it with the date and take a photo of it. Then go back and fix it. Once it is fixed make a note of it as well. We’ll get more into the note-taking portion in our maintenance file. One reason you want to write this all down is to plan for when the equipment needs to be replaced. Playground equipment can last anywhere from 5 to 15 years if well cared for. When the time comes, it’s best to be able to have a replacement ready to go.
Remove damaged equipment
We’ve all been to the park where there is caution tape wrapped around some of the equipment. While that is saying “Stay away! Danger!” it doesn’t necessarily stop children from playing. That’s why it’s so important to keep an eye on equipment and be ready to get them off the playground as soon as possible. The best case scenario is when equipment can be removed before its broken and its merely worn to the end of its life.
Create a playground maintenance file
Let me start by saying, most people don’t enjoy filing and organizing. However, it’s very easy to create a file of records that can help you keep your equipment safe as well as protect your entity in the event of an accident. What you should have in the file should be the following:
- All original documentation from the original purchase of the equipment
- All warranty, installation, and maintenance documents for the equipment
- A log of maintenance checks
- All playground inspection forms
To create a log of maintenance checks, I suggest creating a document for your specific playground that allows you to write notes or check off the different things you’ve looked at and sign off on it with your name and the date. Whenever there are issues, pictures should be taken and put in a file (either physical or virtual) with labels as to time, date, location, and issue. This also allows you to track the wear of your playground equipment and decide when it is time to replace it.
Have a Certified Playground Safety Inspector check your playground
While I have taken you through the basics of playground maintenance, there are specific regulations that are set in place to keep children safe. By hiring or having a certified playground safety inspector, CPSI, on staff, you will know how good of a condition your playground is in. Having inspections once a year is more paired with regular maintenance is sure to keep your playground in tip-top shape!
Call us, we can help!
Doing regular maintenance is necessary and we’ve got swing parts, loose fill surfacing, and more to help you keep your playground in good working order! Contact us today to get a quote for maintenance pieces or new playground equipment!