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K-12 Workflow Management Blog

School Playground Safety Inspection Checklist for K-12 Admins & Facilities Managers

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School playgrounds provide children with an opportunity to engage in physical activity and play during recess and other breaks. Play is essential for children’s physical, social, and cognitive development, helping them to build strong bodies, develop gross and fine motor skills, and improve coordination.

However, playgrounds should be checked regularly to ensure that all equipment is in good condition and that there are no hazards present. 

Adhering to a facility safety checklist for routine maintenance, and specialized checklists for specific areas, like the one provided here, can ensure that all areas of your school–even including the playground–are safe for students of all ages.

The Ultimate Playground Inspection Checklist

An effective way to guarantee the safety of your school playground equipment is to perform regular inspections and maintenance according to a detailed playground safety checklist. This comprehensive guide will help you keep a close eye, determine the state of your playground, flag any required playground maintenance, and take immediate action If needed. 

As you work your way through the following checklist, refer back to the Public Playground Safety Handbook published by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). If you find that any of the inspection areas noted appear to require maintenance, you should contact a Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) for a professional opinion and guidance on the proper corrective action needed.

1. Check the Integrity of All Structures

When checking the integrity of a playground structure, look for sharp edges and points, loose bolts and screws, broken parts or pieces, unstable platforms, sliding boards or other materials that are wobbly or worn out. Confirm that there are no cracks, bending, warps, rust, breakage, peeling paint, or splintering of any playground surfaces.

Additionally, check for instability by shaking it slightly and make sure that all handrails on stairs or ramps have a secure grip so they can be used by children. Inspect all moving parts such as swings and see-saws to make sure they are attached securely. 

2. Check for and Remove All Sharp Edges

Sharp edges can cause serious injury to children who come in contact with them. These sharp objects can easily cut or scrape the skin of a child, or potentially catch on clothing, leading to trips and falls that could cause further injury. For this reason, it is best to ensure that any areas of the playground have no exposed sharp points in order to maximize safety for all users. 

3. Check the Temperature of Metal Play Equipment

Metal surfaces can heat up quickly and become very hot in direct sunlight. This can be a serious safety hazard, as children playing on the equipment may be at risk of burns. 

Additionally, metal that becomes too hot can become more prone to warping or other forms of damage, which can compromise the structural integrity of the equipment. It’s important to keep an eye on the temperature of the metal and ensure that the playground equipment is not too hot for children to play on during the hottest times of the day, especially during summertime or in hot climates. 

4. Ensure All Guardrails and Rungs are Properly Spaced and Secure

Confirm that all playground posts and rails are properly secured. Check that the bolts are tight and make sure there is no rust or corrosion which could affect their stability. You should also check for signs of wear or damage to ladder rungs, rails, and posts.

During this inspection, be sure also to confirm all rails and rungs remain close enough together (3.5” or less), or far enough apart (9” or more) to prevent entrapment hazards.

5. Confirm the Spacing of Independent Play Structures

It is important to make sure that playground structures are a safe distance apart to prevent children from getting hurt if they fall or run into one another. If playground structures and climbers are too close together, children can easily collide with each other or have difficulty moving around and exploring the playground safely.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that playground structures are at least 6 feet apart for children ages 2-5 years and at least 12 feet apart for children over 5 years.

6. Confirm Safe Substrate Depth

Playgrounds should maintain at least 12 inches of protective surfacing such as wood chips, mulch, sand, pea gravel, rubber mats, or shredded/recycled rubber to absorb the impact of falls when a child jumps or slips and falls. The substrate helps to prevent injury by covering concrete footings, cushioning falls, and reducing the risk of severe playground injuries such as concussions or broken bones.

7. Check for Slipping and Tripping Hazards

Inspect the surface of the playground and surrounding sidewalks to determine if any cracked, raised, or uneven surfaces exist. Clear debris and fill any cracks or holes in the ground with sand, dirt, rubberized material, or other loose-fill surfacing materials that provide a safe walking surface. Make sure all steps are slip-proof and use anti-slip surfaces for high mobile areas such as monkey bars so children can move safely around them. Finally, post visible warning signs about safety precautions throughout the playground to remind visitors about potential hazards. 

8. Check the Play Area for Vandalism and Dangerous Substances

You should regularly inspect the playground area for any signs of poisonous plants, mushrooms, beehives, or animal feces. You may find it useful to post reminders on signs near the playground to inform readers about dangerous plants or animals that are native to your region along with the contact information for your local poison control center. 

In addition, acts of vandalism, such as spray-painting, human feces or urine, excessive litter, and broken glass should be noted immediately and cleared, and local law enforcement should be contacted as necessary.

9. Check for Poor Drainage and Pooling Water

Pooling water on a playground can be dangerous for several reasons, including creating slippery conditions; creating an opportunity for rust, corrosion, mold, and mildew; providing a breeding ground for mosquitos and other pests; or creating an electric shock hazard for equipment that’s nearby an electrical source. In addition, pooling water may also present a drowning hazard for children.

If standing or pooling water is found in your play area, you should take steps to remove it, such as by installing drainage systems or redirecting water away from the playground. It’s also important to ensure that the playground’s surface remains level at all times, so that water doesn’t collect in one spot. 

10. Check That Latching Gates Work Properly

It’s important to check playground gates regularly, especially if the playground is frequently used, or if the gate has been damaged or tampered with. When checking gates, look for any signs of wear or damage, such as rust, broken hinges, or loose bolt ends. Make sure that the gates are properly aligned and that they close and lock securely. Confirm that the locking mechanism is working properly, and that the gate doesn’t feel loose or unstable when you shake it. Also, be sure to check for any gaps between the gate and the playground equipment or fence that could allow children to slip through.

How Incident IQ Helps Facilities Managers Maintain Safety Requirements

Regular inspections of school playgrounds are crucial for ensuring the safety of students and staff. Implementing a year-round preventive maintenance schedule, and ensuring proper maintenance and repair of playground equipment can prevent accidents and injuries, and can extend the life of the equipment.

A facilities and asset management software, like Incident IQ, can help schools schedule regular inspections, track equipment, and ensure compliance with safety regulations. It can also provide schools with detailed reports on the condition of their playgrounds, which can help them make data-driven decisions about playground safety.

If you’re looking for a way to improve the safety of your school’s playground, we encourage you to schedule a free demo of our industry-approved school facility management software. With Incident IQ, you can easily schedule and track inspections, manage maintenance tasks, and ensure compliance with safety regulations. Taking these steps will help to ensure that your school’s playground is safe and enjoyable for everyone.