These resources may be your own employees or the specialists of an external contractor. If you have employees who can carry out the maintenance, you must ensure that they have the necessary skills, tools, machinery, parts and instructions – and enough time. However, many need to turn to an external contractor for help because they do not have enough time available. This is also slightly simpler from the perspective of other budgeting, as the contractor ensures that it has the necessary skills, tools and machinery.
Standard EN1176 specifies that annual, operational and routine visual inspections are to be performed. I would argue that anyone with a sufficient technical background can carry out an operational and routine visual inspection of a playground as long as they are provided with good checklists and brief orientation.
An annual inspection is another matter entirely. In my experience, it is a job for a full-time or almost full-time inspector. It’s said that training alone is not enough – true professional skill is the result of work experience. This is definitely true. When I was a full-time inspector, I checked close to 700 playgrounds a year. Now that I’ve transferred to administrative tasks, my expertise is clearly not up to date compared to that of our full-time inspectors, even though I do try to keep up with updated and new standards. Accordingly, you must assess whether your own organisation can perform all the inspections, or would it be better to outsource either some or all of them. Budgeting thus depends largely on your own requirements.
Two things are necessary to ensure excellent expertise: training and work experience. Work experience is self-explanatory. People learn by doing. But how and where can they get training?
Many organisations provide training in Finland. The best known of these is The Finnish Association of Landscape Industries. Many other parties also organize smaller-scale training tailored to the needs of the client. For years now, we at PlayCare have also organised practical orientation on the operational and routine visual inspection of playgrounds and routine maintenance – that is, measures related to the annual maintenance of playgrounds.
You can order tailored training for your needs. I would recommend that option. When the subject has timely relevance, the trainee is certainly more eager to learn, too. These days, it is necessary to organize training regularly. It’s no longer enough to complete training once every ten years – you must update your expertise annually or at the very least whenever a new standard is introduced or when the Finnish Standards Association updates old standards.
Repairs and spare parts
How should you budget for breakage and challenges that have not yet materialized? This is a really good question. In my experience, this is the issue in which we have the most room for improvement in Finland. Some playground owners budget too much for sites that are already in good condition, while others do not budget anything for repairing even the most dangerous defects. Finding a good balance is important. It goes without saying that you cannot budget for all autumn storms or acts of vandalism. Many things can break in ways that you cannot foresee.
- TIP! Document your playground procurements, such as spare parts and repairs, on a site-by-site basis for use in future budgeting.
The most important thing is to allocate enough resources for annual maintenance. I would recommend familiarizing yourself with your documentation, such as information on what spare parts you have ordered in previous years, and use these figures as the basis of your budget.
- TIP 2! Order the spare parts that you need frequently early in the year so that you can quickly repair any problems that arise.
A good rule of thumb is that you should budget at least EUR 500-1,000 for the annual maintenance of a playground, depending on its size and how much it is used. With this sum, you can replace the most important wearing parts, such as swing seats and bearings.
You can predict larger individual repairs on the basis of an accurate annual inspection report.
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