Parks & recreation departments provide safe, attractive, and fun environments for visitors to enjoy. The daily work of the maintenance department helps ensure these visitors remain safe.
The maintenance team has the essential responsibility of eliminating as many potential safety threats as possible. Understanding the role maintenance plays in the public’s safety helps create better strategies for safer areas.
Safety and the Visitor Experience
The best playground equipment, greenest turf, and most modern facilities won’t matter if the area is not safe. Of course, we can’t restrict every activity that poses a threat. Some sports and recreation activities have inherent risk--that’s why users fill out liability waiver forms when registering.
However, we have to make sure that the areas visitors play--and everywhere else on the property--remain reasonably safe. Poorly maintained areas increase the chance of injuries. Injuries caused by negligence can result in costly insurance claims and litigation.
Safety isn’t limited to preventing physical injuries. People want to feel safe when they are at our parks and facilities.
The perception of safety is another consideration maintenance crews have to consider as they complete tasks and inspections. An individual not feeling safe may not lead to a hospital visit or insurance claim, but it may cause them not to return.
One visitor not returning may not seem like a big deal, but they will likely talk about their experience with others. Since smartphones and social media make it way too easy to quickly share images with many people, news about a bad experience could spread quickly.
How the Maintenance Department Helps Ensure Visitor Safety
The maintenance staff is often the first line of defense in ensuring safety. They are the eyes and ears of the parks, facilities, and equipment. Along with programming staff, they monitor the areas and report anything that seems unsafe.
Here are some key ways maintenance staff ensure safety:
Keeping Areas Clean
Clean areas have fewer hazards. The maintenance department plays an instrumental role in making sure things like broken glass, fallen tree limbs, and other potentially harmful debris gets cleared.
Furthermore, the maintenance crew removes the presence of graffiti, litter, or vandalism that can alter a visitor’s perception of safety.
Establishing a Presence
Sometimes seeing park staff in an area is enough to set someone at ease. Visitors know people are available to handle circumstances and situations that may seem unsafe.
While maintenance personnel doesn’t ordinarily interact with the public, a professional, polite presence can establish a sense of safety and security.
Maintaining Frequently Used Surfaces
The various surfaces of parks and facilities need to be safe for visitors. Nearly every surface needs attention. The maintenance department ensures sports areas, trails, parking lots, gym floors, and other surfaces are free from hazards and easy to navigate.
Conducting regular inspections of assets is a proactive way to provide a safe environment for all. Scheduling and assigning facility, trail, and park inspections is one of the most effective safety strategies.
Inspections should be objective and standardized--preferably with a checklist or form. The individual conducting the inspection should have an easy way to report any deficiencies, so they are quickly resolved.
Completing Work Orders
If a problem isn’t reported, it can’t get resolved. Work order systems allow anyone in the agency to report an issue. Then the maintenance manager identifies, prioritizes, and assigns tasks needing completion.
Many parks & recreation departments are discovering maintenance software helps to create an efficient work order system where tasks can easily be prioritized to handle safety issues quickly.
Developing a Culture of Safety
Many aspects of ensuring visitor safety are part of the day-to-day operations of a maintenance department. When everything is running efficiently, parks and facilities are naturally safer for the public.
Safety requires a conscious effort by all maintenance staff. This could be achieved by:
- Regular in-services and training: Teaching regular and seasonal staff what to look for and how to report and handle unsafe situations.
- Consistently scheduling inspections: Having dedicated staff familiar with an asset or area routinely check for any safety hazards.
- Developing a system for resolving hazards: Communication and prioritizing tasks with an efficient work order system ensures a potential problem doesn’t get overlooked.
- Identifying trends to prevent future issues: Managers should review inspections and accident reports to address problems before they occur.
Understanding the role maintenance crews play in ensuring public safety allows managers to provide the experiences that keep visitors coming back to parks and facilities.