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These are some of the common responses I receive from playground operators and owners when I inquire about the condition of ones playground.

- “We have Bill the custodian take care of it- he is on top of it!”
- “We have been licensed so the playground is obviously in great condition’
- “We are aware of the codes and are over-code”
- “I added wood mulch a couple of years ago so we are fine”

Some of the responses would be laughable if the people responsible for them knew the reality of the situation. There are guidelines outlining playground safety that have been in effect since the mid 80’s. Designers and installers of commercial playground equipment are required to abide by these guidelines for anyone buying new playground equipment. These guidelines not only encompass the equipment but also the safety use zone (area where a user is considered to fall), and the safety surfacing material and the depth required for the height of the play equipment. After that the responsibility of maintaining the equipment falls upon the operator or owner of the playground.

These guidelines are not only published for the manufacturers, but also for public knowledge as well. The other result of these guidelines is that liability suits for playground accidents are also on the rise as the public becomes better educated. So how does one insure that they are providing the safest possible play environment, while also protecting yourself from a devastating lawsuit? Make sure that you either have a person on staff that is a certified National Playground Safety Inspector, or hire someone who is certified.
The practicality of sending a staff member to get certified is not always feasible. The course, which is offered several times a year by the National Recreation and Parks Association, is very intense and only about 50% of the people who take the class pass it. One must have a basic construction and /or engineering background to comprehend the course material and the class takes 3 days to attend. At the end of the course there is a 100-question test given that must be passed. Finally to properly inspect a playground requires the purchasing of measuring devices and probes. A lot of owners and operators would rather not go through this process and take on that responsibility. 

It is up to every owner and operator of play facilities to make sure that their grounds are safe. The best way to insure that you are fully aware of what condition your grounds are in, is to have a certified National Playground Safety Inspector thoroughly check your play facilities. Don’t react after an accident situation! Be proactive and do everything you can to eliminate the possibility of an accident. Hire a certified playground safety inspector!