Fall is upon us, and Winter is on its way. That means it's the perfect time for some building and property maintenance to help you ease your organization into cooler weather, and whatever Mother Nature throws your way. Here are some items to add to your maintenance list this Fall that may help improve safety at your organization.
Outdoor Safety and Maintenance Tips
- Trim the trees. Fall is the ideal time for corrective pruning, and an excellent opportunity to spot potential problems before winter storms bring branches crashing down. Pruning can help improve the structural integrity of trees in anticipation of heavy snow, ice or winds while keeping your trees looking their best. Be sure to look up and survey the area before you start. Note of where power lines are located before you set up your ladder, and position it away from them. Use caution when using ladders - wear the appropriate footwear and place on a flat, level surface before use.
- Clean up fallen leaves often. Keep walkways and parking areas free of falling leaves. Wet leaves can create a hazard for pedestrians, making sidewalks slippery. Later in the season, snow and ice can mix with leaves to increase the risk of falling.
- Check your lighting. Proper lighting can help illuminate areas that may be common places for employees or clients/students to trip and fall. As the sun starts to go down earlier and earlier, hazards like steps or uneven surfaces can be hidden by the shadows. Reduce the chance that individuals will fall by checking to see if there is enough light in your parking lot or walkway or entry areas, and replacing any dim or broken light bulbs. Add spotlights and extra illumination wherever needed.
Indoor Safety and Maintenance Tips
- Put out rugs to help control slippery surfaces. Anywhere you have wood or tiled floors (especially at entryways) non-skid rugs can help reduce your accident potential. A rug at your entryway will also help reduce pooling water and mud that sneak in during Fall weather, and better help manage tracking of water throughout the building.
- Check floor condition, inside and out. Take a tour of your building and outdoor walkway areas, checking for cracks or holes in building flooring or the pavement outside. Repair any problem areas quickly, and be sure to place warning signs around areas that need to be addressed.
- Fire up your heating system. Turn your heater on before the temperatures really plummet so you can ensure everything works. Contact a technician to inspect that it’s operating properly if you suspect it needs servicing. Keep all flammable materials away from your furnace. This includes paint products, toxic materials, cardboard and more.
- Check for Basement and Pipe/Foundation Issues. Whether or not your building(s) are located in an area of the country that freezes regularly, it’s a good idea to inspect basement pipes every fall. Not only could you prevent the costly business interruption and property damage associated with burst pipes, but you could also save on energy costs. For example, insulating outside pipes and sealing the areas where pipes enter and exit the building not only help reduce freezing risks, it also reduces heating costs. As does sealing any other cracks or holes in the basement that could let in cold air.
- Check your HVAC system to improve air quality, and improve efficiency. As dust and dirt builds up in you heating, ventilation and air conditioning system throughout the year, reducing air quality and potentially raising your energy bills or damaging your HVAC equipment, it's important to have someone check and clean your ducts in the Fall.
Playgrounds are an important part of young children’s educational environment. They allow children to exercise and expel excess energy so they can better focus in the classroom. However, playgrounds are commonly the site of many injuries, ranging in severity from minor to serious. As an educational institution, you need to balance keeping playground facilities safe, while still facilitating important developmental play, and protect the liabilities that you’re exposed to by having a playground on your property.
Safe Playground Design
The selection of safe and age appropriate equipment is just as important as the selection of a safe ground surface for the playground area. Trips, slips and falls will happen and a safe ground surface can reduce the severity of an injury or prevent an injury completely. Concrete, asphalt and blacktop are all extremely hard surfaces and are generally considered unsafe for playground areas. Woodchip ground cover is much softer, but debris hidden in the woodchips, or the woodchips themselves, can cause falls and minor injuries. Rubber mats offer the most stability, especially for younger children, and allows for the easiest wheelchair access. Playground supervisors and maintenance staff should make sure the ground surface stays level and free of debris that could cause kids to trip and fall, such as rocks, tree stumps and tree roots.
It's important for children to play on age-appropriate gear so that they do not injure themselves on improperly sized equipment. Playgrounds are ultimately safest when equipment is selected for the age of the children using it. When designing a playground for children of all ages, equipment should be separated into three distinct groups: for children under age 2, for 2- to 5-year-olds, and for 5- to 12-year olds.
Other safety considerations that should be taken into account when planning a playground area include the following:
- Items with moving parts—such as seesaws and swings—should be located in a separate area and allow for ample space for the moving parts.
- Minimize the number of spaces that could trap a child's head, arms or legs. All openings—such as rungs on a ladder—should be either less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches.
- Wooden equipment should not be cracked or splintered. Any cracked or splintered equipment requires immediate attention for repair or replacement.
- Any sandbox areas should be inspected regularly before children use them. Be sure that these areas are covered every night to prevent animal contamination.
Look around your organization and identify the possible safety hazards. If you find any hazards that you think need attention, talk to your supervisor. If you develop a safety conscious attitude, you can become aware of office hazards and take the appropriate precautions to avoid them.