Maintaining Community Association (HOA) Playgrounds: Careful Considerations
Having an HOA playground is an attractive feature for young families looking to purchase a home. A playground is also a great place for young children and parents to make friends. As children swing, slide, and climb, injuries are bound to happen. An HOA playground is a common area and therefore maintenance is up to the association. A properly maintained playground is the best defense against injuries and possible litigation. Let's take a closer look at the types of careful considerations needed when maintaining a community association playground:
State and Federal Regulations
A clear understanding of federal, state, and local regulations is important when it comes to playgrounds. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission sets the standards for playground equipment. The Commission publishes the standards in a 42-page "Handbook for Public Playground Safety."The handbook is an informative resource tool for evaluating current playgrounds or planning for a new playground. HOA playgrounds must meet ADA requirements, mandated by the federal government. A maintained wheelchair ramp providing access to the play area is just one example of ADA compliance. State and local regulations vary; check with your local building inspection office about any permits the association might need to start or make changes to the HOA playground.
Considering that falls are the number one cause of playground injuries, a safe landing surface is a must. Two of the most popular surfaces for HOA playgrounds are wood chips and loose rubber. Both are more affordable than other options however they tend to be high-maintenance. Wood chips require a depth of 10-12" and loose rubber a depth of 6". These materials require raking and replenishing due to constant movement from children. A higher-priced rubber surface covering might be a worthy investment as it requires less maintenance.
Playground equipment and surfaces take a beating over the years from all the jumping, climbing, and running. Industry experts estimate the average life of playground equipment to be 15 years. Regularly scheduled maintenance is important for preserving the equipment for as long as possible. Surface rust, for example, can lead to structural failure if not treated early. Local government agencies may have trained playground inspectors on staff and some localities may even require regularly scheduled inspections. Inspections help in identifying issues not seen to the naked eye that may present a serious safety concern. Consider holding a training session for association members regarding playground equipment. Training members to keep an eye out for structural problems is a great way to catch problems that otherwise might go unnoticed.
When planning a playground for the first time, it is a good idea for an association to meet with its attorney. Most likely, the association will be working with a vendor to provide and install the equipment. An attorney can review any contracts, permit applications, and insurance policies. Children often become injured while playing; whether it is due to their own playing or faulty playground equipment. If it is the latter, then having the association's legal bases covered is important. Even after a playground is established, reviewing policies with the association attorney ever so often helps in ensuring that everything is current and up-to-date.
Playgrounds play an important role in the development of children. Movement helps them stay active and healthy and they develop socialization skills playing with other children. Fresh air does wonders for children and parents to enjoy meeting other parents from the community. In today's world of smartphones and technology, it's now more important than ever to encourage children to spend time playing outside. By properly maintaining a common area playground, HOAs can offer children a safe place to run, jump, climb, and play with others.