Regular maintenance for outdoor areas is as important as it is for inside the building. This may include playgrounds, maintenance equipment, car-parking areas, and walking paths. Conducting regular church risk assessments on outdoor areas and dealing with problems promptly should reduce injury risks, and help your church to avoid unwanted insurance claims and costs.
One of the most important considerations for playgrounds is that of having appropriate surfaces to reduce injury risk from falls. These may be made from loose materials such as mulch or pine-bark chips, or fixed synthetic materials designed to absorb shock – such as wet-pour rubber or synthetic grass. Both types are suitable as long as they are at least 300mm deep where equipment is over 500mm in height. Loose material surfaces have a lower upfront cost to install, but they do require more maintenance and may be hazardous for very young children due to a swallowing or choking risk.
Other issues to consider include age-appropriateness of equipment, trip and fall hazards, protrusions such as bolts or nails, spacing of play equipment, provision of shade, and replacement of old or faulty equipment. More information on playground safety can be found here. It’s also important to ensure that all equipment complies with Australian Standards. Old style wooden swings and swing-boats should be removed and replaced with compliant equipment – see the Kidsafe Fact Sheet section for more information on Australian Standards for playgrounds.
Outdoor maintenance equipment
Equipment such as mowers, chainsaws, trimmers and leaf-blowers should be maintained to keep them in good working order and safe to use. This includes keeping them clean and lubricated and ensuring that blades are kept sharp. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all outdoor equipment. The appropriate safety equipment should also be properly utilised to reduce the risk of personal injury.
If equipment is not going to be used for some time – such as during the winter months – any fuel should be drained and battery terminals disconnected prior to storage. In addition, various maintenance issues should be attended to including oil and filter changes and adjustment or replacement of belts and blades.
Car-parks and walking tracks
These areas should also be kept safe to reduce the risk of mishaps with vehicles and to help prevent slips, trips and falls. This may include repairing holes and cracks by applying rubber sealant, repainting of lines, and removing trip hazards. It’s also important that signage and lighting are adequate to prevent night-time mishaps and improve security, especially during winter when it darkens earlier.
These may include ensuring ‘welcome mats’ are kept dry and clean, fences are kept in good repair to aid security, and outside steps are easily visible and in good condition. In addition, outdoor wooden equipment (e.g. bench seats) should be checked for rot and repaired or replaced where necessary. Any lawn areas should be regularly mowed, and trees should also be trimmed and pruned to help prevent property damage and reduce the risk of branches and sticks turning into ‘missiles’ in strong winds – see the article “Tips to avoid damage from trees” for more information on this subject.
Written by Tess Oliver
Tags: health & safety