Completing a playground safety audit
Making playgrounds safe is one of our top priorities at NSP3. By performing regular playground safety audits you are able to provide a fun play space without the liabilities and injuries. The frequency of these checks will depend on the traffic at your site, but we do recommend following this Daily Playground Safety Checklist to keep your site in compliance.
Ensuring that your playground has the proper type and depth of safety surfacing is the biggest factor in reducing life-threatening head injuries. Appropriate playground surfacing types include any material tested to ASTM F1292 such as Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF), Shredded/Recycled Rubber Mulch, Poured-in-Place Unitary Surfacing, Pea Gravel, or Sand.
Different playground surfacing materials have different impact attenuation ratios that require a minimum depth to achieve their rated fall-height protection. These minimum depths are 6 Inches of Recycled Rubber Bark, and 9 Inches for most other surfacing materials. However, keep in mind that these are minimum depths and that loose materials compact as they settle. For instance, an initial fill of 12 inches of wood fiber will compact down to 9 inches within a short time.
Because surfacing materials, especially loose-fill materials compact, degrade, and get lost over time it is important to routinely measure the level of your surfacing material. This can be done with a simple ruler by measuring down to the hard base layer to the top of your playground surfacing.
This is best done after your surfacing has been re-leveled to ensure consistent and accurate measurements. In addition to ensuring adequate surfacing depth daily, inspections for debris and contamination are highly recommended as objects left in playground surfacing can compromise overall impact safety.
There are many steps in completing a structural evaluation of your playground such as ensuring safe-use zones are clear, and the structure is free of entanglement and cutting hazards. Bolts should be checked for protrusions by ensuring they have less than two threads exposed and that the bolt does not increase in diameter away from the mounting surface. In addition, all clamps should be checked as well for cracks and overall tightness.
All elevated structures require railings to protect children from falling off the structure. As such it is important to inspect railings for cracked welds as well as entrapment hazards. An entrapment hazard is where a child could potentially get their body stuck in gaps between bars and other objects. In order to prevent entrapment hazards all gaps in your playground structure should be less than 3.5″ or greater than 9″ so as to prevent children from going through the gap or conversely for them to easily exit a gap.
Swings take a lot of punishment due to constant friction on the load bearing components. Shackles wear out, clamps can break, seats can tear, and hooks can bend. When inspecting swings it is important to look over all of these components for damage.
Swing chains need special attention to ensure there are no entanglement or cutting dangers. S-hooks should be inspected to ensure that they do not have any open gaps for the chain to come disconnected or for clothing to get caught in. Swing seats should be inspected for tears and breaks as these can expose children to seat failure and cutting hazards from the metal within the seat rubber.