Winter is not exactly gentle on outdoor playground equipment, but there are ways to ease this burden and keep your equipment in good shape. Not only will this prevent unnecessary injuries, but also it will save money in the long run. With the right care and maintenance, commercial playground equipment can last 15-20 years.
To help you properly care for your playground during the harsh winter season, here are five tips to put into practice.
1. Update the Playground Equipment
First and foremost, you must prepare the equipment for the winter season. When the weather changes, your playground should, too. You may need to remove shade canopies, shut off water to the drinking fountains and water play equipment and cover sandboxes. Also make sure that there is plenty of surfacing material near slides and swings - these areas are drawn to ice and snow buildup.
2. Perform Regular Inspections
It’s hard to know what’s going on with your playground if you’re not checking up on it. Because we’re all busy and it’s easy to forget things, we recommend setting up an inspection schedule. There are inspection companies with certified safety inspectors on staff that offer on-site inspection services and do minor repairs and maintenance.
At least once a week, someone should walk around the playground and make sure that all play structures are in good condition, with nothing broken, worn down or loose. If a repair needs to be made, you can put in a request right away and tape off the area that needs attention.
3. Make Sure the Surfacing is Even
Uneven surfacing can create tripping hazards and cause you to fall out of compliance with the ADA. Regardless of whether your surfacing is wood chips, rubber mulch or rubber tiles, it should be even and free from holes or gaps.
If there are areas where the engineered wood fiber (EWF), or more commonly known as playground mulch, is low, top it off or rake and fluff surfacing material. There needs to be enough cushion to protect kids from falls. Any gaps, holes or raised edges on poured-in-place rubber will also need repair. Keep in mind that freezing temperatures can affect the material's ability to absorb shock. Again, third party inspection companies offer safety surface impact attenuation testing.
4. Remove Snow and Ice Immediately
Following a snow or ice storm, pay a visit to the playground and remove snow and ice buildup on your play structures. The weight of snow or ice can cause the equipment to suffer premature damage. Also, extreme weather is always a cause for concern, as the freezing-thawing cycle can cause parts to loosen and cracks to form. Be extra vigilant!
5. Inspect Landscaping
Whether it’s raining or snowing, the wet winter months certainly take a toll on playground equipment, as well as the overall look of the park. Take care of the surrounding landscape by cleaning up debris, trimming low hanging branches and maintaining the bedding plants and surfacing material.
By following these five tips, you can preserve your playground equipment throughout the winter season. And, if you do happen to notice that something is amiss, you’ll be able to fix it in advance - before it causes problems and creates a negative impression of your park or playground.