Maintaining Your Playground Equipment

Maintaining Your Playground Equipment

Posted by Joseph Peyton on 14th Jun 2015

Inadequate maintenance of equipment has resulted in injuries on playgrounds. Because the safety of playground equipment and its suitability for use depend on good inspection and maintenance, the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions and recommended inspection schedules should be strictly followed. If manufacturer’s recommendations are not available, a maintenance schedule should be developed based on actual or anticipated playground use. Frequently used playgrounds will require more frequent inspections and maintenance.

Maintenance Inspections

A comprehensive maintenance program should be developed for each playground. All playground areas and equipment should be inspected for excessive wear, deterioration, and any potential hazards. One possible procedure is the use of checklists. Some manufacturers supply checklists for general or detailed inspections with their maintenance instructions. These can be used to ensure that inspections are in compliance with the manufacturer’s specifications. If manufacturer-provided inspection guidelines are not available, a general checklist that may be used as a guide for frequent routine inspections of public playgrounds is provided below. This is intended to address only general maintenance concerns. Detailed inspections should give special attention to moving parts and other parts that can be expected to wear. Maintenance inspections should be carried out in a systematic manner by personnel familiar with the playground, such as maintenance workers, playground supervisors, etc.

Repairs

  • Inspections alone do not constitute a comprehensive maintenance program. Any problems found during the inspection should be noted and fixed as soon as possible. 
  • All repairs and replacements of equipment parts should be completed following the manufacturer’s instructions. 
  • User modifications, such as loose-ended ropes tied to elevated parts, should be removed immediately. 
  • For each piece of equipment, the frequency of thorough inspections will depend on the type and age of equipment, the amount of use, and the local climate.
  • Consult the manufacturer for maintenance schedules for each piece of equipment. Based on these schedules, a maintenance schedule for the entire playground can be created. This routine maintenance schedule should not replace regular inspections.

Maintaining Loose-Fill Surfacing

Loose-fill surfacing materials require special maintenance. High-use public playgrounds, such as child care centers and schools, should be checked frequently to ensure surfacing has not displaced significantly, particularly in areas of the playground most subject to displacement (e.g., under swings and slide exits). This can be facilitated by marking ideal surfacing depths on equipment posts. Displaced loose-fill surfacing should be raked back into proper place so that a constant depth is maintained throughout the playground. Impact attenuating mats placed in high traffic areas, such as under swings and at slide exits, can significantly reduce displacement. They should be installed below or level with surfacing so as not to be a tripping hazard.

The following are key points to look for during regular checks of surfacing: 

  • Areas under swings and at slide exits. Activity in these areas tends to displace surfacing quickly. Rake loose-fill back into place. 
  • Pooling water on mulch surfacing. For example, wet mulch compacts faster than dry, fluffy mulch. If puddles are noticed regularly, consider addressing larger drainage issues. 
  • Frozen surfacing. Most loose-fill surfacing that freezes solid no longer functions as protective surfacing. Even if the first few inches may be loose, the base layer may be frozen and the impact attenuation of the surfacing may be significantly reduced. It is recommended that children not play on the equipment under these conditions.

Recordkeeping

Records of all maintenance inspections and repairs should be retained, including the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions and any checklists used. When any inspection is performed, the person performing it should sign and date the form used. A record of any accident and injury reported to have occurred on the playground should also be retained. This will help identify potential hazards or dangerous design features that should be corrected.

Routine Inspection and Maintenance Issues
  • Broken equipment such as loose bolts, missing end caps, cracks, etc. 
  • Broken glass & other trash 
  • Cracks in plastics 
  • Loose anchoring 
  • Hazardous or dangerous debris 
  • Insect damage 
  • Problems with surfacing 
  • Displaced loose-fill surfacing 
  •  Holes, flakes, and/or buckling of unitary surfacing 
  •  User modifications (such as ropes tied to parts or equipment rearranged) 
  •  Vandalism 
  •  Worn, loose, damaged, or missing parts 
  •  Wood splitting 
  •  Rusted or corroded metals 
  •  Rot