As we enter the summer months, more and more families are heading to the playground to play during warm evenings. Whether you have an existing playground or are planning to build a new one, it is important that your board consider playground safety regularly. Keeping up constant maintenance both for the safety and enjoyment of all homeowners is part of the job. Here are some tips for maintaining playgrounds in HOA communities.
A Guide to Maintaining Playgrounds in HOA
Playgrounds are a source of joy and laughter for both children and parents alike. Nothing beats watching your child having fun on the swings or down the slide. But when play areas are not maintained properly, they can cause safety hazards to children. Everything from rusty nails protruding from the sides to unstable foundations creaking every minute can make any parent understandably worry.
Your HOA board has a fiduciary responsibility to implement the upkeep of all community areas and amenities. This includes maintaining HOA playgrounds. However, there are some differences when it comes to new playgrounds and existing ones in your community. Let’s break them down below.
If your association is building a playground for the first time, there are a few considerations your board should be aware of before choosing the right equipment. Here are a few steps your board can take to create a beautiful and safe playground:
1. Choose a Credible Manufacturer
Much like any other purchase, the quality of the product depends on the supplier you ultimately go with. Not all playground equipment is made equal. Some are more well-built than others.
There are even manufacturers who skimp on the quality of materials used just to save a few bucks.
Playground safety must be a priority for your board. As such, you must do thorough research before choosing a manufacturer for your HOA playground equipment.
While you may be tempted to pick the first one you see out of convenience, remember that the lives of children are at stake here. Due to the many regulations that surround playground equipment, consulting an expert on the subject matter is recommended.
2. Consider Ground Material
The equipment itself isn’t the only thing you must take into account when building a new playground. Even the ground children land on is vital.
In fact, the ground material of your playground is one of the most important decisions you will make when building a playground in an HOA community.
In some areas, certain materials such as sand are illegal due to their not being handicapped-accessible. Materials such as wood chips and loose rubber should also be at a certain depth to help prevent injuries from falls.
For wood chips, it must be 10-12″ deep. For loose rubber, it must be 6″ deep.
3. Post Up Safety Signs
It may entail some extra work on your end, but safety signs are a must in a playground. Determine which areas of the playground should have safety signs on display and make sure they are easy to understand. Both for the safety of children and for the protection of your HOA from lawsuits, you should post clear safety signs that outline the proper use of equipment as well as the age groups for which the playground was designed.
4. Schedule Inspections
Once your playground is constructed, be sure to have regular inspections. This is a vital part of maintaining playgrounds in HOA communities, so make sure to include these inspections on the schedule so that your board does not forget this crucial item.
Regular maintenance on playground equipment will help to keep more costly replacements and repairs at bay while maximizing safety at the same time.
5. Consult an Attorney
Due to the sensitive nature of playgrounds, your board must meet with the association’s attorney prior to building one. Make sure your attorney checks all legal documents, such as permits and contracts, and insurance policies. It is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s “Handbook for Public Playground Safety.”
If children get hurt at the HOA playground, parents may want to seek legal action against the association. For this reason, you must ensure that all legal bases are covered.
6. Make Playground Rules Known
Rules exist for a reason, but they are utterly useless if no one knows about them. Your board has a duty to keep residents safe, and part of that is making sure everyone knows what the HOA playground rules are.
Beyond genuine concern, this is a good way to escape any legal liability in case injury or harm occurs as a direct result of not knowing the rules.
If your association already has a playground, there is a certain amount of maintenance that should be considered on a yearly basis. These concerns include:
1. Inspecting and Replacing Ground Material
Because regulations require the material on the ground to be a certain depth, it is important to replace these materials as they begin to wear out. Substances such as wood chips can become displaced during the winter months, so spring and summer are the perfect times to inspect and replace as needed. Composite material should also be regularly checked for damage.
2. Check for Insect Nests or Other Hazards
It is a good idea to regularly inspect equipment and surrounding areas for insect nests. This includes wasps, bees, and ants. While this may seem like a small concern, the consequences can be great. Insect bites can be harmful, especially to children who have allergic reactions to them. By checking for insects, you can help protect children from bites or stings.
3. Perform Regular Checks on Nuts and Bolts
One of the foundations of maintaining playground equipment is to check on the structural integrity of the playground regularly.
Weather and rough use can wear down connecting nuts and bolts, compromising the strength of the equipment and putting little lives in danger. Any rusted or weakened nuts, bolts, or joints should be replaced immediately.
Prioritizing Playground Safety
Anyone can see that maintaining playgrounds in HOA communities is a prime concern for residents, especially parents. A playground can bring laughter and enjoyment, but it can also spell disaster when improperly maintained. As an HOA board member, it is part of your job to make sure the community playground remains in tiptop shape. After all, playgrounds are supposed to bring people together.
Building and maintaining playgrounds in HOAs can be a tall order for some, which is why many turn to HOA management companies for help. In that case, don’t hesitate to give us a call.
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