Summer usually means an increase in visitors to recreation facilities; this year, expect an even larger crowd as people seek out free or inexpensive recreation during this economic downturn. Now is the time to prepare: take inventory of facilities, staff and grounds to ensure guests have a safe and enjoyable experience.
Before you can assess facilities and grounds, assemble a safety team to lead the charge. Many facilities rotate safety-committee members every year or at least every two years, as new faces bring new energy and eyes to policies and procedures.
Begin by reviewing last season’s accidents and incidents, as well as any “near misses,” not only to confirm all repairs have been successfully completed, but also to ensure that new policies and procedures have been implemented to thwart any repeats in the upcoming season.
Be sure to monitor ADA compliance in planning and inspections as well. At least one employee with knowledge of ADA regulations and guidelines should be a member of the committee.
In addition to reviewing safety for guests, don’t forget about employees. Since OSHA and labor laws require notices on safety and employment be posted at appropriate places where they are clearly visible to all employees (such as in offices, shops and work areas), a visual check is advised to ensure they are up-to-date.
If your facility hires new employees for the summer months, now is the time to begin interviewing and training. As the economy is still recovering, you may find an abundance of older candidates available to fill positions for which you typically hire teenagers. Consider hiring an older candidate first, as his or her maturity and experience may be tremendous assets for operations and maintenance needs during the new season.
When hiring new employees, check his or her background information thoroughly, paying close attention to references and work history. Research criminal and civil litigation that may be in public records, as well as any certifications and education accomplishments listed on an employment application. (It’s not a bad idea to check public records for current employees, as long as you are searching records.) If an employee will handle cash transactions, a credit check is in order. You may also want to consider drug testing as part of hiring and employment policies.
This may also be the perfect opportunity to evaluate the employee manuals, policies and training for full-time employees. Take time to remind current employees of safety and loss-prevention policies and procedures, including the emergency-crisis plan. It is also a good practice to address your employee trainers and update their training materials, practices and procedures for the new-hire process. Check that all current employee certifications are up-to-date, and remind staff to participate in relevant continuing-education opportunities.
Once you have squared away personnel issues, it’s time to take a thorough look at the facilities.
Take a complete inventory of materials and supplies on hand, and compare it to last year’s normal usage; this is an effective way to start the new season-readiness process, particularly in the maintenance department.
Running short of necessary supplies not only delays work, but may cause shortcuts in repair and maintenance. For instance, an employee may be tempted to skip replacing all of the bolts and washers during a repair if the bins are running low. Avoid this by making sure items are properly stocked.
If you have been making an equipment and facility repair list during the winter, review and update it along with beautification projects and maintenance repairs. Once all of the projects are accounted for, prioritize and schedule the work to be completed. If you do not keep a running inventory or repair list, now is the time to take a complete inventory, including visual inspections of the maintenance-shop work area, hand and power tools, landscaping equipment and mechanical equipment.
Once the maintenance department passes the test, it’s time to move on to the facility inspection.
It is imperative that the entire facility is inspected at least twice by different individuals. This includes:
• Buildings and grounds, including offices, storage rooms, restrooms, dressing rooms, meeting rooms and first-aid stations
• Shade structures, benches, bleachers, tables and trash receptacles
• Ingress and egress points, parking areas, waste storage and dumpsters
• Insect burrows, hives and homes of any four-legged critters that may have taken up residence
• All mechanical and recreational equipment.
Develop checklists for inspections that list all facility equipment and grounds to ensure no area or item is overlooked. If you do not have photographs of the facility, take them now, not just to keep in your files, but to serve as an available reference for needed repairs, as well as before-and-after repair documentation.
During inspection, concentrate first on issues that relate to safety and loss-prevention:
• Electrical wiring and lighting
• Barrier fencing
• Uneven walkways and potholes (including the parking lots)
• Steps, stairs, ramps (including natural elevation changes where foot traffic is expected)
• Equipment repairs such as playground and sports equipment
• Drinking fountains and restrooms
• Pools and splash pads
• Maintenance machinery, such as tractors, mowers, blowers, power washers, edgers and trimmers, etc.
• Power tools, such as saws, grinders, drills, generators and test equipment
• Facility equipment, such as compressors, pumps, motors and water-purification systems
• Food preparation and service equipment
• Safety signage and cash control
• Wastewater systems and natural-drainage pathways
• Security cameras, locks and lockout devices
• Gates and turnstiles
• First-aid stations and supplies, including kits in employees areas
• Communication equipment, such as the intercom, public-address systems, walkie-talkies
• Grounds adversely affected by inclement weather.
Next, identify beautification needs:
• Flowers and landscaping
• Furniture replacement (not safety-related)
• General housekeeping.
Shoring Up Signage
Two of the most overlooked items in the inspection are safety and directional signs.
Detailed signage throughout the maintenance shop and on tools and equipment is not only necessary but a good practice. Signs warning of potential trips and falls in offices, employee meeting rooms and throughout the facility, as well as signage warning of significant elevation changes to the terrain or walkways, helps prevent common accidents.
Directional signs serve a different function. In addition to guiding new visitors through your facility, they provide an opportunity to call attention to potential safety hazards of which people may not be aware.
Winter months bring adverse weather and damage to facility exteriors in all climates. Excess water runoff clogs drains and reroutes natural-drainage pathways, creating piles of landscape materials, mud holes and uneven terrain. Keep an eye out for these issues during inspection.
If you prepare in advance for the summer rush, you’ll make a dent in safety without causing a ripple in operations.
George Laibe is certified in loss-prevention for amusement and recreation facilities. He lives near Phoenix, Ariz., and can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com