This content is courtesy of the Canadian Playground Safety Institute.

As of: March 31, 2020

The information currently available on novel coronavirus, COVID, or the newest name: SARS-CoV-2 (formerly called HCoV-19) is changing not only day by day but hour by hour and sometimes more frequently than that. The information in this article is information is believed to be accurate at the time of publishing this article, but it could have changed by the time you read it. Please continue to monitor revisions to this article through this weblink: https://www.cpsionline.ca/index.php?action=cms.trainCpsiResources – As we will continue to update this article with up to date information as often as we can.

Given that the COVID crisis is being dealt with very differently from province to province and even county to county – it is always best to consult your local public health official and support their actions in terms of how to deal with playground use during the COVID pandemic. As Canadians we all need to support our health professionals at this time.

Closing A Playground

Over the past several years in playground training courses many of you have been taught to use Moduloc or some kind of 1.8-meter or 6 foot temporary fence to prevent use of playgrounds or playground components – knowing this was not 100% effective. Further, if there was a component that presented a hazard to public use, you were likely taught to remove that component entirely.

At this point, many of you are being instructed to rope off the playground, use caution tape or temporary fencing etc,, often in conjunction with signage, to “close” your playgrounds.

If your jurisdiction in Canada is suggesting to close playgrounds – we need to support this movement, but you need to ask how this should be done. If for no other reason than your own protection. No one would ever want to get this wrong and create a worse hazard through the attempted closure. If those asking you to close playgrounds cannot provide specifics – put this documentation in your playground records.

Through direct emails, texts, inquiries into the CPSI program, even CBC News articles – I have heard of playground owners during this crisis, attempting to close playgrounds via the following methods:

1.      Roped off – Which could create a looping or suspended hazard for clotheslining a user and would make the equipment non-compliant

2.      Social media posts as a sole means of informing the public – Many do not have access to social media and seems equivalent to lip service with no real substance

3.      Signage attached to equipment – I have seen photos of where entrapment openings have been created because of the new signage

4.      Caution tape – I have seen photos of caution tape around some components, but not all of them. Would this mean some components are still open? While others are not open?

5.      Fencing and/or other physical barriers – Which could transfer germs to the fence or barricade with kids looking over wishing they could get in. (instead of having germs on the equipment)

6.      Bright orange snow fence that serves as a beacon to attract potential users

If your organization has decided to close play areas, please consider the following:

  • Keep your signage independent whenever possible (not attached to the equipment, by attaching the signage to the equipment one can create a non-compliance such as an entrapment, sharp edge, etc.).
  • Keep your signage out of the protective surfacing zones (but readily identifiable and visible to anyone that may attempt to use the equipment)
  • If you must attach signage to the equipment, ensure no secondary hazard such as sharp edge, entrapment, entanglement, etc. is created by the sign or the distance between the signage and existing equipment leaves a compliant protective surfacing zone. Sign material should be flexible and can break with pressure. Zip ties can be used but make sure the are cut end is flush with the latching mechanism to avoid sharp edge).
  • Post signs at all access points into the play area (if there are 4 walkways into a play area, there should be 4 signs)
  • Putting signage on swings may be difficult.
  • Wrapping the swings around the swing frame toprail and fixing them into position with zip ties would make the swings un-useable.
  • Use a warning symbol  not a biohazard symbol as warning symbols warn of all hazards and are a general caution. Whereas biohazards are more specific only to viruses, germs, disease, etc. Warning symbols can be downloaded free of charge from the internet.

Hopefully by working together we can help reduce the spread of COVID and/or other communicable diseases.

Scott Belair
CCPI, CPSI, B.Sc.
Instructor, Canadian Playground Safety Institute
scott.belair@cpsionline.ca
___________________________________________________

Scott Belair has 20+ years of experience in the playground and play equipment field. Scott is President of Reliable Reporting, a company known for the development of playground auditing software. He is a member of the Canadian Standards Association Z614 technical committee for play equipment and also a member of the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM). Scott is an instructor for the Canadian Playground Safety Institute and a certified playground inspector in both the U.S. and Canada. Scott’s experience ventures from manufacturing and installations earlier in his career – now into promoting an auditing software program, performing safety audits and training courses throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia.