The backyard: a haven for children to run, swing, jump, climb, bounce, and play. In today’s technologically advanced society, it’s imperative for kids to get outside and play. But before you encourage your kids to let loose on the playground this summer, you must make sure your playground equipment is safe. About 50,000 children go to the emergency room each year due to injuries on home playgrounds. Proper installation (following the manufacturer’s instructions) and maintenance are the keys to preventing future injuries.
A home playground or other forms of outdoor recreation must be located in an area of the backyard that is far from the street/driveway and also visible from inside the home or patio. There should be no obstructions nearby such as tree limbs, stumps, electrical wires, large tree roots, rocks, or holes in the ground. The play equipment must be at least 9 feet from any other structure like the house, fence, shed, etc. Additionally, the playground must be located in a level area of the backyard to reduce the chances of tipping.
Because children inevitably fall off of playground equipment, a protective surfacing should be installed and maintained underneath and around your playground. A home playground should never be located on concrete or asphalt. Likewise, packed earth and grass also aren’t the most safe surfaces. The best materials include wood chips, mulch, shredded rubber, sand, pea gravel, and safety-tested rubber mats. This cushioning should extend at least 6 feet beyond the perimeter of all the playground equipment and be at least 6 inches deep.
Like anything else, a home playground is subject to wear and tear over time. As a result, it is best to save the manufacturer’s instructions as a helpful reference tool. Periodically check for corrosion on any metal parts including bolts, screws, washers, nuts, and hooks and replace if needed. Also make sure all bolts, nuts, and screws are tightly fastened, capped, and not protruding. A protruding piece of hardware could cause lacerations and catch clothing. Check swing seats, ropes, cables, and chains for deterioration and replace as necessary. Clean and repaint any rusted metal with non-lead-based paint. Occasionally rake the surface material to ensure it is spread out and proper depths are evenly maintained.
Trampolines are the most dangerous piece of playground equipment to have, resulting in an average of 246,875 injuries annually according to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons. The biggest tip for trampoline safety is not to have one; however, if a trampoline is a must in your home, make sure you follow the same location, protective surfacing, and maintenance tips/precautions listed above. It’s also a wise idea to install a surrounding net and cover all portions of the steel hooks and frames with safety pads.
Make your summer a safe one and inspect your playground today.
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Jeff Polakiewicz, a Knoxville home inspector, specializes in home inspections located in the Knoxville and surrounding areas. With over 30+ years of experience in the housing industry, Jeff brings a wealth of inspection knowledge and provides a full comprehensive inspection with no 'brick' left unturned! www.homeinspectorknoxville.net