Most people with children will purchase some sort of playground equipment while their kids are growing up. Outdoor play equipment can provide children with hours of fun and exercise. It can, however, prove dangerous. According to the CDC, over 200,000 children receive treatment each year for playground related injuries. Here are several steps you can take to help keep your home playground equipment safe.
Purchase Quality Equipment
The first step for keeping kids safe is to buy the right kind of equipment. Playgroundequipment.com recommends choosing equipment with certification by the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA).
- Wood - If you choose wood, make sure it's pest resistant and strong enough that it doesn't easily buckle. Cedar is a good wood choice.
- Steel - Galvanized steel resists corrosion and is long lasting. In general, metal is easier to maintain.
- Plastic - Plastic equipment is usually smaller and made for younger children.
Choosing the right equipment is only part of the process. Children often jump off of swings and other parts of a play set. It's crucial to have a safe and soft-landing area. If you have to install the play set on asphalt or concrete, you may want to consider investing in shredded rubber around the equipment. Sand and mulch are other options. It's recommended to have 12 inches of mulch to provide soft landings.
Select the Right Place for Installation
Hilly areas are normally not a good spot for installing most types of playground equipment. Many people remember swinging so high on rickety equipment that the legs would pull out of the soil. It's essential to install equipment in an area that is as flat as possible. Make sure there aren't any underground gas lines or other utility components in the area. When moving to a new home, a professional home inspection team can help you find the best location for play equipment.
You'll also want to make sure stumps and low branches are at least six feet away from all play equipment. You'll need twice that much room in front and behind swings. According to backyardcity.com, it's also important to place swing sets with metal slides and dark colored equipment in places where they won't absorb direct sunlight for most of the day. You may also want to consider installing equipment in a place that is clearly visible from more than one window in your home.
Conduct Seasonal Maintenance
Regular maintenance is a must for keeping all equipment safe. It's often cheaper and easier to fix equipment if you find what needs repaired before it becomes a major problem. It's recommended to stain or reseal wood play equipment on a regular basis to keep it in top shape. You'll want to check all areas of your play equipment several times each year. This is especially important in the spring after the equipment and ground may have frozen and thawed several times. There are several specific items you'll want to check for.
- Check for splintered wood and frayed ropes.
- Look for rusty areas, which are often susceptible to cracking and breaking.
- Thoroughly inspect the bearings on any type of equipment that rotates.
- Spray out dirt and gravel with a high-powered hose so the bearings and spinners are clean.
- Make sure all the equipment is still securely installed in the ground.
Repair and Replace Faulty Parts
When finding worn or broken parts it's essential to repair the equipment immediately to maintain the highest levels of safety. Homeadvisor.com states that it's recommended to hire professionals when repairing playground equipment. This is because installing commercial grade products require skills that most people don't have. There are lots of companies offering playground parts. It's important to research companies to find quality replacement parts when repairing equipment.
It's important to know when replacing an entire play set is a better option than trying to repair part of it. If several parts aren't functioning correctly and safety is an issue, it's definitely time to replace the equipment. If certain parts were already replaced several times or are old enough that replaceable parts aren't easily found, it's probably time to invest in a new play set. Finally, if there's enough wear and tear that the equipment looks in poor shape to the naked eye, it's time to replace the set.
Implement Safety Procedures
No matter how safe and secure your equipment is, accidents are likely to happen if safety procedures aren't followed. The National Safety Council states that 80 percent of playground injuries are the result of falls. The following are a few important safety procedures to keep in mind.
- Make sure railings and side panels are around all areas that are above ground level.
- Maintain adult supervision whenever children are playing.
- Children should wear comfortable clothing.
- Baggy clothes, however, can more easily snag and get caught on equipment.
- Children should wear closed-toe shoes when playing on any type of equipment.
- Make sure you know and adhere to the weight limits on each particular play set.
If possible, you may want to remove parts that are detachable during winter months during home winter preparation. If there are long periods when children aren't playing on the equipment, it's a good idea to store all removable parts in a dry, covered location.
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