How to keep HOA playgrounds safe this summer

By Laura Otto
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More than half of injuries that happen on playgrounds occur on climbers, especially horizontal ladders, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The CPSC states that 9 inches of wood mulch should be placed under equipment with a play surface that’s 7 feet tall.

A major safety factor is adult supervision. It’s why the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) recommends that children be accompanied by an adult on the playground to ensure they are playing on age-appropriate equipment.

But adults’ duties don’t stop there. Parents and caregivers should double-check that the equipment is anchored safely in the ground and all equipment pieces are in good working order. Also keep an eye out for rust, splinters, or missing parts, warns NPPS. Make sure ropes used as part of playground equipment are secured on both ends. Be advised that strings on clothing or ropes used for play can cause accidental strangulation if caught on the equipment.

It may sound elementary, but it’s important to check for hot surfaces on playground equipment before allowing children to play. If shade structures don’t protect the equipment from the sun, the surface can become hot enough to burn a child’s skin.

Like pools that put signs up when no lifeguard is on duty, playgrounds should follow suit, says Michael McKelleb, an attorney with Angius & Terry in Las Vegas. He recommends playgrounds display disclaimers that restrict equipment use by age or weight.

“When someone over the weight limit uses the play set and it breaks, he or she was on notice; and the association likely will not be liable for any injuries because they ignored a warning,” adds McKelleb.

Having a solid insurance plan is an association’s best defense against playground injuries. Coverage depends on the community, its size, amenities, and risks, explains Clifford J. Treese, CIRMS​, founder of Association Data and a CAI past president. An association’s insurance should cover all common areas, not just pool and playground equipment.

“A board with several industry professionals may want higher liability insurance limits because they have a better understanding of the risks,” says Treese. “Associations with substantial amenities like swimming pools, playgrounds, or fitness centers might look for higher limits above $1 million, which is the typical commercial general liability coverage.”

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Laura Otto

Laura Otto is editor of CAI’s award-winning Community Manager. A seasoned journalist, Laura previously worked for a creative, advocacy agency in Washington, D.C., where she wrote and edited content for a variety of public health clients. Prior to that, Laura served as a senior writer and editor for the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Laura is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia.