Facility Dude

6 Tips for playground safety and maintenance this winter

By Kate Donnelly
Oct 13, 2014

Clubs, Government, Facilities Management

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6 Tips for playground safety and maintenance this winter As the weather changes, new maintenance and safety concerns can arise due to shifts in temperature and precipitation. Especially for an area where children are so prevalent, it's important to keep your facility's playground safe and properly maintained. Here are a few tips to keeping your recreational areas up to standards.

1. Grass fields

Camps, clubs, and public parks and recreation facilities are likely to have fields and other large grassy areas to maintain. While summertime maintenance of such areas is largely horticultural in focus - keeping the grass properly mowed and watered - colder weather brings a new set of challenges.

As Education Business magazine pointed out, autumn and winter conditions can result in sparser grass coverage across the field. These bare patches can pose hazards not only to footing, but can also be more dangerous if individuals fall on a hard patch of frozen dirt or even rocks. The source recommended a process known as verti draining. A common method of field aeration, it involves the soil being retilled by large spikes that punch into the soil. This loosens hard and compacted dirt. It also makes it easier to reseed high-traffic areas where grass has been worn away, reducing the risk of injury from slipping and falling on frozen ground.

2. Artificial turf

For those with all-weather fields, essential building maintenance is still required. Specifically, drag brushing the field can keep it free of ice, moss and other debris. This helps redistribute the infill and leads to a safer and more level play area.

3. Fall prevention

Falls represent one of the larger and more common safety risks found in a playground in colder weather. Not only can winter lead to the presence of dangerous ice, but colder temperatures can also cause shifts in the ground surfaces, leading to uneven terrain. Additionally, as a report from consulting company Playground Safety pointed out, even cushioned safety surfaces can freeze in cold weather, making them hard and more dangerous for children to fall on.

4. Choking and strangulation

It may not instantly occur to some administrators or facility managers, but cooler seasons increase choking hazards for children. Playground Safety reminded that colder temperatures mean jackets, coats and sweatshirts, many of which have drawstrings, zippers and other things that can catch and entangle on edges. Unfortunately this is more an individual concern than a maintenance one, but FMs can minimize choking risk by paying close attention to any edges or protrusions present on the playground. Make sure things are installed properly, and ensure play facilities are monitored during peak hours.

5. Structural integrity

Playground equipment faces a new danger in fall and winter in the form of precipitation. Wood fixtures are especially prone to potential degradation due to exposure to the elements. Not only can rain help to erode wood more quickly, but, as Playground Medic pointed out, snow is its own special type of danger. The increased weight of accumulated snow and ice that playground structures must bear can put structural stress on equipment. It's important to inspect playground fixtures regularly to check for cracks or other signs of premature wear.

6. Trees

While in the summertime trees can be a source of relaxing shade or adventurous entertainment, in the winter they can pose new safety hazards. Education Business highlighted the danger posed by the accumulation of snow and ice on extended tree limbs, especially of older trees. If there are any branches hanging over your playground, take care to ensure they are regularly pruned so potential problem limbs don't pose a hazard to playing children.

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