Kids need to play outside to get exercise, grow, learn and have fun. With proper playground maintenance, you can keep equipment safe and minimize injury risks regardless of the season. When you properly maintain your playground, you also protect your investment and reduce equipment replacement costs.
In this post, we’ll show you how to maintain your playground and when to replace equipment. We’ll also provide a simple maintenance checklist to add to your routine.
With a well-maintained playground, your entire community can feel proud to have a beautiful playground all year long.
Several environmental factors can affect the safety of your playground with each season. You’ll want to inspect the playground every day for hazards that could lead to slips, falls, cuts, insect bites or other injuries. Always keep your eyes open for any potential hazards whenever you visit the playground. Here’s a list of common environmental hazards to look out for:
- Trash and debris: Every day, someone on your maintenance team should check the playground for trash and debris such as broken glass, soda cans, sharp sticks, large rocks or any object that could cause injury or illness. Also, make sure to check for hidden objects in loose-fill surfacing or sandboxes. Consider placing trash cans and recycling bins in high-traffic areas to reduce the amount of trash thrown on the ground. Trash and other hazardous debris can appear daily and overnight, so it’s important to do a quick check for these items every single day.
- Trip hazards: Look for common trip hazards such as tree roots, tree stumps, anchoring devices, rocks and sudden changes in elevation. Make sure anchoring devices such as concrete footings have been installed below ground level. Consider closing off areas that present a high injury risk until you’re able to remove the trip hazard.
- Ice and snow: Ice and snow can make playground equipment and surfaces dangerously slippery during the winter. Always remove snow in and around playground equipment immediately. Do not allow snow to build up around equipment as it is not a sufficient cushion for a fall. Also, check the playground for proper drainage. If water does not drain from the playground, loose-fill can freeze and no longer be an impact-absorbing surface. Standing water can also become a slip hazard when frozen.
- Leaves: During the fall, keep playground areas free of leaf buildup. Wet leaves can be just as slippery as ice and should not be left on playground equipment. Leaves are also not a safe surface to land on, and dangerous debris can easily become hidden in leaves. It’s best to remove fallen leaves from the play area.
- Pests: During the warmer months, check the playground for pests like bees, flies, spiders and beetles to prevent bites and stings or other related injuries. You can limit pests by making sure outdoor trash cans are emptied frequently and aren’t left overnight with overflowing trash. You can also help keep pests away by limiting standing water around the playground, choosing pest-resistant materials and equipment, and keeping vegetation away from playground structures.
- Standing water: If you notice any areas of the playground where water tends to pool, make changes to improve drainage. Standing water can lead to injury, illness or become a drowning hazard. A proper drainage system moves water away from the playground and nearby buildings.
- Misplaced surfacing: Most playground-related injuries occur when a child falls from equipment. Properly maintained surfacing helps reduce the impact of a fall and severity of an injury. Make sure surfacing is always adequately deep or has at least 12 inches of pea gravel, wood chips, mulch, rubber mulch or unitary surface. Immediately refill any misplaced surfacing to maintain safe levels.
- Sun exposure: Consider if the playground is located in an area with significant sun exposure. Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be hot outside for playground equipment to heat up and cause burns if the equipment is positioned in direct sunlight. If sun exposure is an issue, consider replacing bare metal swing chains with coated chains, adding shaded structures, utilizing trees or creating shaded areas nearby. If you use trees for shade, remember that you’ll need to clean up more debris like leaves and branches.
- Damaged fencing: Check the fencing surrounding the playground and make sure it’s in good condition to prevent children from running into any nearby roads.
How to Maintain Playground Equipment
According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, up to 75% of children’s emergency room visits with playground injuries are due to falls, while other injuries are due to impact with an obstacle, cuts, pinching, crushing and entrapment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states a well-maintained playground presents fewer risks to children.
Playground equipment maintenance involves regular inspections and repairs or replacement of hazardous equipment. It’s a good idea to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions and inspection schedules for each piece of playground equipment. Also, keep in mind that the more a playground is used, the more it will need to be inspected and maintained.
The first step to maintaining playground equipment is to inspect the condition of the equipment and look for worn or broken equipment and any potential hazards. Factors like rain, wind, snow and sun exposure can speed up the wear and tear of equipment if the equipment is not well-maintained or constructed with durable materials. Here’s what you’ll want to look for during your inspection:
- Broken equipment
- Loose bolts
- Missing bolts, screws, nails or other fasteners
- Cracks or breaks in plastic equipment
- Loose anchoring
- Insect damage
- User-modified equipment
- Worn, loose, missing or damaged parts
- Rusted metal
- Wood rot or splintering
- Open S-hooks
- Protruding bolts
- Sharp edges
- Peeling paint
If you notice a piece of equipment needs repair, always check the manufacturer’s instructions before grabbing your toolbox. With that said, you may be able to make a few quick adjustments to improve playground safety and the condition of the equipment. Here some ways to maintain playground equipment:
- Remove and any user modifications like ropes tied to playground equipment immediately.
- Tighten bolts with a wrench.
- Close open S-hooks on the swings with S-hook pliers.
- Lubricate moving metal parts if needed.
- Replace loose, missing or rusted fasteners with the appropriate stainless steel fasteners equivalent.
- Fill wood cracks with wood filler and sand the surface.
- Use sandpaper to smooth down splinters or rough spots in any wooden equipment, wipe dust away with a damp cloth, and apply a wood sealant to prevent future splintering.
- Clean metal and plastic with soap and water.
If any equipment seems loose, broken or in need of repair, mark it off-limits immediately and remove or repair hazardous equipment as soon as possible so kids can get back to playing. If you need assistance, consult a maintenance professional or contact the manufacturer of the playground equipment.
Some repairs may be an easy fix, while others might require professional help. Sometimes it’s necessary to replace equipment. Regardless of who repairs or installs equipment, always make sure the equipment is repaired correctly and replacement parts are made of high-quality materials. Is your playground at a school? If so, take advantage of summer break or holidays when the playground is empty to make repairs or replace equipment.
Playground Equipment Inspection Checklist
All year long, playground equipment may be exposed to a variety of temperatures and weather conditions, from summer heat and humidity to winter snow and ice. Some materials are more impacted by weather conditions than others. For example, wood may expand or shrink depending on temperature and moisture content, and rain can cause metal to rust. All these factors combined with regular use can increase the wear and tear of equipment, so regular inspection and maintenance are necessary.
Use a checklist to make sure you don’t overlook any potential hazards during safety inspections. Take the following checklist with you next time you inspect your playground and check off each item as you move along:
- No sharp points, edges or corners
- No missing or damaged protective caps or fasteners
- No protruding fasteners
- No exposed moving parts that could crush or pinch
- No worn fastening devices, connectors, bearings or other moving parts
- No rot, splinters, rust, corrosion, warping, curling or cracking
- No peeling or chipping paint
- No user modifications
- No debris in the playground
- No loose anchoring
- No insect damage
- No problems with surfacing
- No vandalism
- No loose ropes or cables
- No water hazards
- No beehives or pooling water in tires
- No open or excessively worn S-hooks
- No exposed metal on swing seats
- No entrapment hazards
- No lack of space between equipment
Tips for Replacing Playground Equipment
Sometimes, it’s best to play it safe and replace worn equipment rather than make a repair. If you have any doubt in your mind that a piece of playground equipment is unsafe, it’s probably worth considering a replacement and avoiding the risk of an injury or accident. You’ll likely want to replace equipment when:
- Equipment is ten years old or older, and signs of wear and tear are clearly visible
- The condition of the equipment is unsafe in any way
- Equipment is frequently used and has undergone multiple repairs
- There are missing parts that cannot be replaced
If you’re ready to choose new equipment to replace old playground equipment, here are some tips to help you select the right pieces for your park or school:
- First, assess the playground and determine the size and layout of the playground.
- Consider the number of children who will be using the new equipment and their ages.
- Consider the type of equipment children enjoy playing on the most, and if you need to replace equipment with something similar or something different and new.
- Determine your budget for replacing equipment and consider any additional costs you might need room in your budget for such as new surfacing or storage fees.
- Consider the aesthetic quality of the equipment and how it will blend in with existing equipment.
- Resolve any drainage issues before installing new playground equipment.
- Address any layout issues before adding replacement equipment and make sure the new equipment will fit into the layout while leaving adequate space.
When you’re ready to research and purchase new equipment, try to choose pieces that offer the following qualities to ensure equipment is safe, easy to maintain throughout every season, and will last a long time:
- Is constructed with durable materials
- Features corrosion-resistant fasteners
- Has bearings and bushings that are easy to lubricate or which are self-lubricating
- Has closed S-hooks
- Is resistant to rot and pests
- Is all-inclusive so children of all abilities can enjoy the playground
- Is appropriate for the age groups who will be using the equipment
- Meets safety standards
- Is fun and stimulating to foster growth
Also, it’s recommended to avoid bare metals for platforms, slides and steps, and instead choose coated metal which may not get as hot in direct sunlight. After you order equipment and prepare the site for installation, always strictly follow manufacturer instructions for assembling and installing equipment or hire a professional for installation. Ensure equipment had been installed correctly before allowing children to play on the new equipment.
Purchase Exciting Playground Equipment From PlayPower Canada
Playtime at the playground creates memories that last a lifetime for the children in our communities. Outdoor playtime is also a fun way for children to exercise, make new friends, and develop important cognitive and motor skills. Kids should be able to enjoy recess or trips to the local playground injury-free. With proper playground maintenance, park managers, schools and parents can keep kids safe, happy and healthy year-round, and prevent injuries that could have easily been avoided with regular inspection and maintenance.
If you’ve discovered it’s time to replace worn or damaged equipment at your playground, we’re here to help at PlayPower Canada. PlayPower Canada has been the leader in playground equipment in Canada for over 70 years. Our commercial play structures are designed, constructed and tested to meet safety standards, keep kids engaged, and enjoy safe, stimulating play. Our durable all-inclusive playground equipment is built to last and can stand up to Canadian weather year-round.
Whether you need a themed playground to foster creativity or a custom solution that offers one-of-a-kind adventure, we have exciting, easy-to-install options to meet your needs, space and budget. To purchase new and exciting replacement equipment from the brands kids love, browse our site, request a quote or contact a team member today –– we’ll be happy to provide a unique playground solution!