Often, when playground safety is brought up in a discussion, the focus centers on the playground equipment and surfacing. The equipment and surfacing are extremely important elements of a playground and there are standards, laws, and guidelines that can and should be reviewed when designing, building, maintaining, and supervising playgrounds. There are other areas of play that should be reviewed. Playgrounds often have amenities that should be designed and kept as safe as possible.
Follow Manufacturer Instructions
Research is a must to know what safety requirements should be met with what amenity are you planning to purchase. ASTM International, The Consumer Product Safety Commission, and the International Code Council are a few of the safety organizations that provide safety guidance. In the absence of any other agency to help you, the manufacturers of products are an outstanding, underutilized resource. The manufacturer of what is been bought understands the why, how, for whom, and what maintenance practices are required for what they create and sell.
Work with Public Safety Providers
It is essential that a meeting is set up with your police and fire safety providers. The police and fire personnel have a different, essential point of view that must be incorporated into our decision-making. We want the amenities you are purchasing to be enjoyed by your user group and not endanger the men and women who keep us safe.
Keep Things Clean
There are many ways in which we can endanger our guest. Failure to keep things clean is one way. Exposure to trash, waste, blood and other unknown sticky, dirty things are not only unpleasant and disgusting, but can be a safety hazard. While keeping things clean we must also keep our staff safe. For example, the City of Miami, FL Parks and Recreation Safety Handbook states:
- Employees who use steam cleaners must first be trained and authorized.
- The supervisor will maintain a current list of personnel and will turn the steam on for authorized personnel.
- Hearing protectors, goggles and cuffed gloves are required to be worn. Two workers are required to be present during the cleaning process.
- Before leaving the steam cleaner area, employees will clean the area, roll up the hose and turn in the protective equipment.
Some Amenities Examples
The following are some items on which you may wish to conduct a safety review for your agency:
The following information is provided by Serenity Health & Home Décor.
Make your water fountain last with proper maintenance and upkeep. Submersible pumps are the heart and soul of any indoor or outdoor water fountain. It doesn’t matter what the fountains are made of, what size they are, or how much they cost, water fountain pumps are what make them tick, or more accurately, flow. The secret to keeping your indoor or outdoor fountain in perfect working condition is in the pump. There’s no big secrecy around it. It’s really just a matter of common sense and basic know-how. Indoor pumps have somewhat different maintenance needs than outdoor pumps. For example, outdoor fountain pumps are more susceptible to becoming clogged with debris blown into the fountain by Mother Nature herself. They need to be taken right out of the fountain and periodically cleaned. That means that all debris (dirt, sand, leaves, grass, etc.) should we wiped out of the fountain regularly. Indoor fountain pumps aren’t exposed to harsh weather conditions, but may need to be adjusted or calibrated slightly (depending on the style of fountain) to adjust the noise level and make the most of the harmonious water sounds coming from the fountain. Be sure your fountain pump is completely submersed in water. When you first get your water fountain and run it for a few days you will see how often you will need to be adding water. This depends on the climate, atmosphere in your home, etc. The size of the fountain will also be a factor as larger fountains such as a wall fountain will typically hold more water, thus no need to fill as often. Keep the fountain pump clean of debris and buildup. The pump will be the first thing to see buildup as this is what the water is flowing through and filtering the water. You can simply take the pump out of the fountain and wipe it clean with a sponge or cloth. Remove the cover of the pump and clean out the inside as well. If there are small areas in the pump, try using a toothbrush to scrub these hard to reach areas.
Keep your water fountains running all the time. This is a great tip for a couple reasons. First of all, if you keep your fountains on all the time it prolongs the life of the pump because it is not being turned on and off. If cared for properly, the pump should last at least a year, if not 3 to 5 years. Secondly, your water will stay cleaner. Still, stagnant water that is not moving will develop debris and buildup much faster. This is a great tip as many people think they need to shut their fountain off at night or when they leave for work. Using distilled water is the best way to prevent algae buildup in indoor water fountains. It is however, not required. If you don’t have access to distilled water you can also try a fountain care product such as Algae Control, White Scale Control, or No More Foam. There are also some great all natural fountain care products that are completely safe for pets and wildlife. Try a fountain protector such as Fountain Cleanser or Bird Bath Cleanser. These work great for outdoor fountains because they are safe for wildlife and distilled water is not always possible for larger outdoor fountains. Regular use of a fountain care product will help prevent algae and white scale buildup that happen from minerals and hard water. Clean the water fountain regularly. This will keep the water fountain beautiful on the outside, like a piece of art! Most fountains can simply be emptied and wiped clean on the inside and out with a cloth or sponge. If there is stainless steel or copper on the waterfall see the care instructions provided below.
TIPS FOR COPPER
Water fountains made of copper will either be a natural copper or have a powder coat finish over the copper. Copper with a powder coat, or clear coat finish has a clear heat-baked finish applied to all surfaces of the copper. This protects the copper from getting that greenish (patina) tint. It also protects the beautiful (hand-applied) patina, and allows the copper to maintain its “new” and lustrous look over the years. NEVER USE COPPER CLEANER on copper with a powder coat finish. It will remove the finish and cause the fountain to show aging (patina) faster. Simply clean the copper with Pledge or furniture cleaner and a soft sponge or cloth. You may also want to apply a turtle wax or car wax to the copper every couple months to protect the copper and keep it shining. If you experience white spots (white scale) on your copper they can be cleaned off with CLR (Calcium Lime Remover). Note: Powder coating does not completely stop the aging process of copper, over time, the copper will age and the powder coating will come off allowing your copper to oxidize as this is a natural material and a normal process. Care for Natural Copper Fountains: Simply use a furniture polish such as Pledge to keep your fountain clean and beautiful. You will want to be careful not to let water sit on the copper (all fountains have splash guard to minimize this) for a long period of time. NEVER USE Copper Cleaner or CLR as this will remove the patina finish that is hand applied to these copper fountains. Copper will oxidize and change color over time. You will see the copper on your fountain go through various stages of “weathering” typically starting with turning a darker color. The time it takes for this process to start is dependent on your climate.
Care For Stainless Steel
Stainless steel is very simple to care for and virtually maintenance free. It will not age like copper and has an excellent resistance to corrosion. It also has a smooth surface and because of this it is more difficult for bacteria to settle. To clean your stainless steel fountain simply wipe it clean with a dry or wet cloth. Do not use a harsh abrasive cleaner or any abrasive sponges or other abrasive cleaning products. Never use a disinfectant such as bleach or anything containing bleach on your stainless steel because it could eat away at the material. You can use a product such as No More White Scale if you start to notice white buildup on your fountain.
The following article in Recreation Management by Stacy St. Clair, Jenny E. Beeh and Kelli Anderson is very helpful.
Dirty drinking fountains do more than just turn off visitors. They also threaten their health. Recreation managers have a responsibility to provide their patrons with clean coolers that quench thirst and prevent contamination. Fortunately, with a little extra effort and the latest technology, clean drinking water can be within everyone’s reach.
CHECK IT OUT
Studies show the public won’t drink from fountains they perceive as even slightly unclean. Make fountain checks a part of a regular maintenance schedule. Have an employee check the fountains every two hours to ensure they are in clean, working condition. During big events, consider performing hourly inspections.
KEEPING IT CLEAN
Water fountains should be cleaned at least once a day. When cleaning, first check the water flow. For sanitary reasons, the stream should be at least three inches away from the bubbler. Next, spray disinfectant cleaning solution on the inside surfaces of the mouthpiece and protective guard. Using a grout brush, scrub the inside and outside of the mouthpiece and protective guard. Use a clean, damp cloth to wipe down drinking fountain surfaces.
Fountain maintenance also should include the removal of lime buildup. The first step is to spray descaler onto the bowl and back of the drinking fountain. Once you’ve done this, saturate a clean, lint-free cloth with lime remover solution. Run the cloth directly over any surfaces with lime buildup. When removing the solution, use a brush or hand pad to remove the hard buildup if necessary. Wipe the area dry with a clean, lint-free cloth.
If you’re installing your water fountain inside a recreation facility, consider placing it in an area without carpeting. Spillage can create moisture problems that encourage mold growth.
With increased population and industrialization, the world’s water resources become more stressed every day. The global challenge has given rise to the recycling of treated municipal wastewater for non-potable uses such as park and golf course irrigation. Non-potable water reuse often enables a community to supplement its water supply and reduce reliance on other pristine, yet quite limited, sources.
However, water reuse in park and recreational irrigation does not come without associated challenges. Wastewater, by its very nature, is highly contaminated. Only pathogens and some inorganic materials need to be removed for non-potable uses. Though the nutrient-rich water benefits the landscape, it poses a threat to patrons if it comes in contact with nearby water fountains.
It’s critical that public drinking fountains located on or directly adjacent to irrigated areas have separate irrigation streams. When drinking fountains are located near irrigation heads, non-potable water can come in contact the drinking fountain’s bubbler head, causing potential contamination problems. To remedy this, consider a device that shields the head.
The industry recently came up with a simple device that encases the bubbler head, protecting it from outside exposure and contamination, whether it be in a school room or on a irrigated ball field. When the fountain button is pressed, the water line pressure forces the shield up, exposing the bubbler head and clearing the water flow. When the button is released, the water pressure’s elimination lowers the shield and once again encases the bubble.
Manufacturers provided the following information from their websites.
CARE & MAINTENANCE OF WOOD FURNITURE
Teak and balau are the premium choices of wood for outdoor furniture. Teak and balau are beautiful and durable hardwoods that require little or no care to preserve its natural good looks and strength for decades.
THE WEATHERING PROCESS
Remove any dust from manufacturing by lightly wiping the furniture with a damp cloth. New teak and balau furniture appears to have a polished sheen. This sheen is caused from the oil naturally occurring in balau wood. This surface oil will be washed away after a short time outdoors. The oils and resins that remain inside give teak and balau their lasting durability. In the first few week of sun exposure, teak and balau will turn a beautiful golden color. Eventually, the weathering process will naturally age the furniture to a handsome silver-gray, leaving your furniture with a look of ageless beauty. This gradual aging process usually takes up to twelve months, depending on the amount of sunlight and rain exposure to the wood. After the wood has been exposed to moisture, the surface grain may rise slightly. The grain will return to its original smooth finish after the initial weathering process. You may even notice a few small cracks at the end grain, called ‘checking’. This is a natural weathering effect. The slight separation of the grain has no effect on the strength and longevity of the furniture. This ‘checking’ is caused when the wood expands and contracts slightly when left outdoors. Water spots or discoloration may also occur early in the weathering process. This spotting will eventually disappear as the teak wood ages to its uniform silver-gray color. To quicken this aging process, simply clean the furniture as instructed below in annual cleaning.
The only maintenance necessary for your furniture is a periodic cleaning. This cleaning should be done with a soft bristled brush and soapy water (mild detergent) to remove accumulated dirt. Most dirt and stains can be removed with soapy water and a brush. To eliminate any surface mold (black spots/color) add a half cup of household bleach to each one-gallon soapy water solution. Rinse well with clean water after washing. Avoid using a pressure washer because it can scour and roughen the wood surface and drive out the natural wood oils. Also, avoid the use of steel wool as it can leave a residue that can produce rust spots. A bronze wool pad will work.
Teak and balau are porous materials and will absorb unwanted liquids and food oils that will cause staining. To reduce staining, immediately wipe off up any spills as soon as possible. Scrub stain with a wet sponge and let dry. For stubborn stains and burns, it is recommend to do a light sanding in addition to cleaning. If previously sealed, follow sanding by resealing stained surface area.
Should you prefer to keep the furniture the original golden color use a wood sealer. Oil based sealers will maintain the color for approximately one year and can be reapplied as needed. Wood sealers will also aid in reducing staining. Initial application of sealer should be applied after one or two weeks of outdoor exposure or after your furniture has been cleaned and completely dried. Avoid applying sealer in direct sunlight or extreme heat. Let dry for a day and buff with a clean towel.
To restore your furniture to its original color, use a wood cleaner/brighteners. Most cleaners/brighteners will restore the furniture to the original golden color regardless of age or surface condition. These cleaners require no heavy scrubbing, easy to use and will produce dramatic results.
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND USING TEAK OIL
Using teak oil on outdoor wood furniture can leave a greasy or sticky residue which provides an ideal living condition for mold and mildew. This creates black spots on your wood furniture. We also advise against the use of paint, varnish or other similar finishes. These finishes tend to crack and flake from the surface and are not suited for outdoor applications.
Picnic Table & Park Bench Frames Maintenance Tips
Posted by Pilot Rock on August 19, 2015.
All outdoor park equipment requires periodic maintenance and repairs as the exposure to weather conditions and the human element takes a toll. We have compiled a list of maintenance tips for various pieces of park equipment. These tips are provided to advise about what needs to be done, when and how to do it. These tips may not cover all situations under all conditions, but are general best-practice tips. In this series of four maintenance posts, we now review tips for picnic table and park bench frames.
DAMAGE FROM MOVING
If you move or relocate any picnic tables or park benches, look for any frame components that may get damaged during this handling. If diagonal braces that support the frame structure get damaged, they should be replaced to keep the structure sound. Be sure to check all fasteners. They can work loose over time, especially if the tables or benches are moved around.
The most durable frame finish for outdoor furniture is galvanized. A galvanized finish is more durable and resistant to scratching and exposure over time than a painted finish. The best galvanized finish is called hot dip galvanized after fabrication. This process involves submerging the fully assembled frame component into molten zinc to completely coat all surfaces – including the inside and outside of all pipe components and all welds. These dipped components have a shiny finish that will weather to a dull gray over time. This will require almost no maintenance under normal use. There are also frame components made of pre-galvanized steel. These parts are usually lightweight and perform quite well in many applications. However, any areas that have been cut or drilled will expose the underlying steel and may develop rust over time. Be most concerned about any points on pre-galvanized steel that have been welded. The welding heat can burn off the pre-galvanized finish exposing the steel. These weld points must be cold galvanized, which could be equated to a sprayed on painted finish. Painted frame finishes are also very popular because many color options are available. Most manufacturers now use a dry powder coat paint application process vs. liquid paint. In most common installations, the painted finish will serve well for many years. However, if the paint is chipped or scratched, the exposed metal can begin to rust. For example, if picnic tables are dragged across a concrete surface, the paint can be scratched off the underside of the frame pipe. It won’t be visible on the bottom, but the steel will be exposed. These areas must be sanded and repainted before the rust expands too far. Use any spray paint that closely matches the color of the frame component. You should expect to do more touch up maintenance on painted steel components for park furniture used by the public. There are, however, environments where painted steel frame components do not hold up as well as galvanized finishes. We do not recommend painted finishes for steel in coastal and island environments, where there is a lot of humidity from the lake or ocean and a lot of salt exposure from that moisture. The combination of moisture and salt air will cause any steel exposed by a scratch in the paint to quickly rust and the rust will only grow bigger. This can require frequent repair and repainting. The hot dip galvanized finish is less susceptible to this corrosive environment.
According to the Travel Industry Association of America an estimated 29.1 million Americans say they have traveled with a pet in the past three years. Canines are the most popular travel companions. As estimated 78% travel with their parents while felines take second place at 15%. You may wish to add one next to your playground. Please take a look at the article Could a Dog Park Be The Key to a Healthier Community?:
Most of us would agree that we would like to see ourselves and our children go outdoors, become healthier, and have more fun. What better way to help with these activities than to ride our bikes to the playground? But, when we get to the playground what do we do with the bikes? The Portland Police Bureau states that stolen bikes cost the city residents over $2 million a year and that at least 8 bikes are stolen every day. Bicycle racks are low maintenance items that can help your guest enjoy their playgrounds and keep their bikes.
Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
You do not have to come up with site amenities by yourself. There are organizations and people which are around that have come up with great projects already. How many times have you heard the old adage “work smarter, not harder”? This is an important lesson. Don’t get me wrong, we don’t mean to devalue the importance of hard work. True effort is always well recognized. However, in these times of stretched resources and limited staff, we should all be looking to make the most out of what we have. That often means working smarter…in addition to our constant hard work. More specifically, we mean that we should make use of ALL our resources, and there are many out there that go under-utilized.
Information and expertise are two things that we always seem to need more of. Additionally, there are huge benefits to having a person or team to serve as a sounding board. Occasionally you need someone to bounce ideas off of, even if they don’t have the same level of expertise or work in a different field. When you need extra help, ideas, research or expertise don’t forget to look in the following places:
By neighbor, we are referring to the next town over, or one down the highway. Maybe your college roommate is now a Parks and Recreation Supervisor in a different city. There’s a good chance you don’t know any other agency professionals from surrounding communities. Either way, don’t hesitate to reach out to fellow departments in other places for help. As an industry, we tend to view other towns as competitors (for state funding, users or talented professionals), but we can’t forget that collaboration makes everyone stronger. Regional planning organizations are an excellent network for communities to come together and share ideas, staff, research and yes, sometimes the muchly-needed money. Some metropolitan areas have very tight knit organizations with dozens of cities, towns and suburbs collaborating with one another on things from regional planning efforts, major multi-town projects and coordinated funding sources. Other metropolitan areas or rural counties have less formal networks, which means that oftentimes getting help and information from other peer communities can be tough. Research other communities near you that are facing similar issues and get in touch. All it takes is a quick email to reach out and make contact.
YOUR LOCAL UNIVERSITY
Most cities and towns are within relatively easy reach of an institute of higher learning. Colleges and universities are great resources when your department has a specific problem to solve. These institutions have many people with lots of education and experience behind them. Many instructors are also professionals who have worked in the parks and recreation industry for years in different capacities. Typically, community colleges have close-knit relationships to the communities they serve. Instructors and students are often your own employees, directors or vendors. Keep them in mind, so when you have a question about what to plant in your agency’s new park, you may have more options than a high-priced landscape architecture firm.
Other departments or agencies within your local government can be helpful too. Fostering connections and relationships with your city’s planning department or public works agency can go a long way in making your job easier and less stressful. Some cities have staff that work for multiple departments, especially when it comes to advertising, planning and public outreach. This strategy can make things more efficient and help create a unified vision and voice behind your agency’s efforts.
A mentor of mine once told me, “The public has all the answers.” Let’s not forget that we are in the business of creating a better quality of life for our community. There are valuable things to learn from the public and they can provide a huge amount of help when needed, especially if funds are tight. Some projects can be done primarily with volunteers. Working with the public to raise funds is another benefit. Finally, crowdsourcing information and ideas will become more popular and accessible in the future. Planning efforts and decision-making will be opened to the public through social media, and allow the public to specifically impact the work you do. Engage them early and often, and it will work to your benefit. For examples of how the public is engaging in crowdsourced collaboration check out www.chicagocityscape.com, www.ioby.org and www.neighborly.com.
Last but not least, there is the wonderful, nearly infinite thing we call the Internet. From Google Searches and Wikipedia, to eHow and YouTube tutorials, the Internet can be a constant friend and incredibly helpful resource when used appropriately and effectively. Manufacturer recommendations, scholarly articles, opinion pieces, maintenance standards, operating manuals, customized help, simple tips, life hacks, and quite literally information of all types can be easily accessed with the click of a button. Make sure you know your agency’s Internet policy and always keep in mind that nothing accessed on a work computer is private. With proper knowledge and restraint, the Internet may be our most underutilized resource yet.
We have provided some examples of playground amenities, some great information that is easily discoverable, and some tips on using all your resources more effectively. Remember that when it comes down to problem solving or getting a question answered, you are never alone and there is always help available to you. We believe that any provider of playground amenities should have an understanding of why they want to use an item at a playground and how to keep it maintained and safe. I understand that you and your staff are stretched thin, but you cannot allow yourselves to be pressed to the point that someone could be injured or killed!