Playgrounds are one of the most popular features of parks and recreation agencies. They are an excellent place for kids to blow off some steam, socialize, and improve their strength and motor skills.
More children and families will be at the playgrounds as we head into the summer months. Increased usage often means a greater risk of damaged equipment or unsafe conditions.
Regular playground inspections are one of the most effective ways of discovering and addressing safety issues before they become a major problem.
Conducting and documenting playground inspections is a crucial task that benefits the public, the agencies, and park employees.
Types of Playground Inspections
There are two main types of playground inspections:
- Inspections by Certified Playground Inspectors: Inspections completed by certified playground inspectors who can verify all equipment meets safety inspections.
- Routine maintenance inspections: Maintenance staff thoroughly examine all equipment, surfaces, and play areas, ensuring no damaged or weakened areas.
Certified Playground Inspector Requirements
The National Parks & Recreation Association (NRPA) offers a Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) training program. It is the most comprehensive training program on playground hazard identification and risk management methods available in the United States. In the program, individuals learn from expert instructors about protecting children from injury due to playground hazards.
NRPA offers in-person 3-day CPSI training sessions at select locations. A CPSI Blended Learning Course combining online courses, live virtual training sessions, and a CPSI computer-based exam is also available.
Candidates must successfully pass a CPSI exam of 100 questions. Then the certification is valid for 3 years.
Maintenance Crew Playground Inspections
Your maintenance team should also perform regular inspections as part of their daily or weekly tasks. While they may not have the extensive training of CPSIs, their familiarity with the local parks and consistent observations are invaluable resources for playground safety.
Training all maintenance staff in detecting, reporting, and addressing playground hazards allows for a safer, more enjoyable experience for the public. NPRA's 12-Point Playground Safety Checklist is a great place to start with maintenance staff training.
Benefits of Playground Inspections
Let's take a quick look at how playground inspections benefit everyone.
Park inspections keep parks available and functioning. Children don't lose out on recreation experiences because of unusable or broken equipment.
Also, addressing hazardous conditions found during inspections prevent injuries from falls, entanglement, entrapment, and more.
Inspections also increase the public's sense of security. Parks with litter and graffiti can make a visitor feel unsafe or uneasy. By regularly checking and addressing vandalism or littering, parks are cleaner and less likely to have graffiti.
Park inspections also help the public stay informed. Checking that signage clearly communicates park rules, age limits, potential hazards, or other important information about an area lets the public know what to expect during their experience.
Routine playground inspections are an investment that could save an agency significant money over time.
Maintaining equipment extends the life of an agency's investment. Fixing minor issues before playground equipment becomes too damaged and needs replacement can save thousands of dollars.
Addressing playground hazards before someone gets hurt prevents the potential for costly liability and personal injury litigation.
Of course, some injuries are unavoidable. When an injury occurs, the cause will need investigation. Clear playground inspection records document the maintenance crew's risk management and playground safety efforts. Records of inspections and work orders are evidence the maintenance team was not negligent of their duties.
Inspections help the PR team, too. Clean and safe parks give an agency a good reputation and become a source of pride for the community.
The Maintenance Team
Knowing playground inspection procedures, schedules of inspections, and how to report findings makes the team more professional and accountable. When everyone is on the same page, minor issues don't slip through the cracks, and inspections don't get missed.
Your team will take pride in fewer visitor injuries and better-looking parks they work hard to maintain.
Start Scheduling Inspections Now
The best way to get into the routine of regular playground inspections is to schedule them now. Even if you don't have everything in place, scheduling is the most important first step you could take.
Next, assign the staff to complete the inspections. Have the same crewmember or team check a specific playground when possible. Using the same person to conduct a site's inspections ensures more consistent findings.
If you don't have inspection checklists, check the guidelines from the playground equipment manufacturer. They usually have suggestions about what to inspect and how frequently to do it.
Another helpful resource is the Public Playground Safety Handbook put out by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. There are even some example inspection checklists included in the document.
Here are a couple quick tips for more effective playground inspections:
- Use consistent staff for inspections
- Make inspections objective rather than subjective.
- Create a uniform way to document inspections.
- Seek out the small stuff--be sure to check for loose nuts and bolts or surface damage that may get worse over time.
- Be sure to include the site’s perimeter, fences, gates, seating, and paths in the inspection.
Keep the Momentum Going
One way to stay on track and maintain accountability is using maintenance software to help schedule, track, and create work orders based on inspection findings. A straightforward system for reporting, communicating, and documenting makes workflow easier. The integration of software saves time, money, and may prevent serious injuries.
Once you have an inspection routine set, evaluate it periodically. Meet with your team and see what could be improved and what's working well. Review documentation and injury reports to determine if inspections should be modified to prevent new issues or hazards.
And then start enjoying the benefits of better, safer parks!