Archive for October, 2014

Reality Check – Where Are We Today versus Yesterday?

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Reality Check – Where Are We Today versus Yesterday?
By Kenneth S Kutska. CPSI
Executive Director, International Playground Safety Institute, LLC
March 15, 2014

Here I am at 37,000 feet on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner on route to Narita Tokyo International Airport. The Dreamliner is an impressive piece of modern technology that could not have even been imagined 40 or 50 years ago but that is another story. Today’s technology and what history has taught us is the story for today. I have to apologize for what I am probably going to say but my deadline is fast approaching and the level of oxygen at this elevation has brought about some weird thoughts. So back to my current state of affairs. It is five hours into my flight and I reflect back on my day thus far. My day started with a robo-call informing me the first of three flights commencing at 5:30 AM was cancelled. The reason I was later given was, “no crew availability.” The reason given is irrelevant but I bet it was weather related. The weather, regardless of where you live, has been a major story thus far in 2014. Regardless what the reality of the moment was the question remained, “What do I do now?” This notification came about 2 AM through my iPhone United Airlines App. This early morning call was not the first over the past two months. Disruptions to travel plans this winter seems to be a common but unappreciated reality for the regular air traveler. I am not taking my frustration out on the airlines. As a matter of fact I am applauding them for their ability to notify their customers when problems, often beyond their control, take over the situation. Yes, these kinds of calls are a huge inconvenience but think about our alternatives in the past. There was little or nothing we could do. We lived in the moment and relied on what our paper airline ticket said. Our parents and grandparents probably took the train or bus because air flight was not as predictable or affordable as it is today. Coast to coast or around the world travel was maybe a wanted extravagance but not an absolute necessity. Not so much today.

If we only accept yesterday’s technology and weather patterns as an absolute repeatable occurrence where would we be in the future? It did after all rain and snow in the past. I think even more than this winter of 2014. Most of us cannot even begin to appreciate many of the extreme weather events of the past unless we were actually there. I can remember a few Chicago winters of the 70s and 80s that were beyond what we have endured thus far in Chicagoland. Mayoral elections were lost over the incumbent’s inability to plow the streets and alleys of Chicago. It must have been the Mayor’s fault it snowed. I have to admit the winter of 2014 is not over so maybe this will go down as the worst Midwest winter of recent times but I cannot look into a crystal ball and say with certainty what will happen next. Technology and our ability to project the future continues to be a work in progress. We have not been able to predict, let alone manage Mother Nature, to any degree of certainty. I doubt we will ever be able to make weather predictions any better than we do now let alone be able to control her ability to wreak havoc on our day to day lives.

Looking back at my career I would have never imagined traveling to the other side of the world to conduct training on public playground management issues. In less than 48 hours I have arrived in Malaysia to do just that. In less than 12 hours I will have overcome the ravages of Mother Nature which put my plans in jeopardy. Thanks to today’s technology my travels have occurred rather smoothly, all things considered. Some of us yearn for the good ole days when we only worried about what was right in front of us at that moment. We went with the flow and dealt with whatever Mother Nature threw at us. We have to admit our inability to control the weather. All we can hope to do is use the technology of today and tomorrow to better cope with weather unpredictability and be prepared for the worse.
Each and every day we use technology to cope with the trials and tribulations of everyday life. Why are some still reluctant to accept the technological advances in society. While we cannot control the future we can learn from history and look for trends and assess our options to prepare for the future whatever it may bring. To change the subject from the probability and predictability of the weather to our ability to understand the probability and predictability of injuries on the playground we can agree on one universal truth. Weather and accidents will both happen with a certain probability of certainty. The extreme occurrences our outliers from the norm will continue to be the attention grabbers.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), while different in their specific mission, have both been compiling a historic perspective related to their individual missions, weather and consumer protection. We think of NOAA being around from the early 1970s but its roots go back to the early 1800s. So how has their long history helped us predict the weather? Most would probably answer not very well but in fact it has helped us in our day to day lives in incredible ways. We seem to only dwell on those outliers I spoke of a moment ago. We cannot help but focus on the sensational. We in the US have been blessed with many organizations that help us live our lives in a more safe and predictable fashion. The US CPSC has more than a 40 year history of looking out after the consumer through gathering and analyzing injury data. When it comes to consumer protection no other country comes close to their record. As flawed as some believe this injury data gathering system is, the data and its analysis remains. I keep thinking of the saying, “The more we know, the more we know we don’t know.” It is time we use the technology of today and the historic reality from where we have come; to change for the benefit of society and specifically our children. What we chose to with regards to our consumer safety recommendations and industry standards will continue to have a ripple effect on other countries
The international community is beginning to speak the same universal language when it comes to children’s play spaces – Playgroundese. We are finding common ground that should benefit the development of all children. The element of risk and challenge experienced during children’s free play are fast becoming developmental imperatives for their future. While we may not all agree on how we put all the terms of Playgroundese into practice, we are at least beginning to understand each differing point of view. Understanding opposing points of view is important to eventual compromise.

I think the time is right for convening an international conference on children’s right for free play that addresses the conflicts between those who wish to mandate the safety of all children in all circumstances against those who wish to remove all rules and regulations which might restrict any child’s access to play opportunities based on an assumption of unreasonable risk. The ability of society to rationalize and accept the outcomes, good and bad, of a child’s reasonable foreseeable misuse versus the reality of possible outcomes, is fast becoming the question of the day. Many of us responsible for these free play opportunities consider unreasonable use or misuse coupled with the legal liability climate in the USA, the real “Elephant in the Room”. Generally speaking nobody really wants to talk about it. We seem to be more willing to allow whatever is going to happen, happen. Going back for a moment to my weather analogy it is sort of how our parents and grandparents lived their lives when it came to the weather. They more than likely just went to bed, woke up each and every morning, and see what they had to deal with.

Research and history continues to point out the importance of risk and challenge in child development. What this information cannot tell us is the unsettling, unpredictable and unknown. It is not if a child’s actions will result in an unfortunate serious injury, but when? Will it happen on my playground or yours?

Accepting the fact that children will be children, how do our public agencies responsible for creating and managing these unsupervised play opportunities rationalize the liability exposure their taxpayers face if and when a child goes beyond their abilities and is seriously injured. To put this in context to the uncertainty of our weather; what do you do when the Tornado or Tsunami warning system goes off? Sit in your home and look out the window waiting for what might happen or do you act rationally given what history has taught us and take appropriate evasive action. Measuring or adjusting the scale between risky play and safety regulation has proven to be a bit more complicated.

Children deserve our thoughtful consideration when it comes to their safety and developmental needs. Continuing this discussion on the benefits of risk versus safety regulation is a necessity. Those in charge of regulation and its enforcement have a duty that should not be taken lightly. Likewise parents and the children should not take lightly their own individual responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

CAN WE ELIMINATE SERIOUS INJURIES THROUGH LEGISLATION? Part 2

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

CAN WE ELIMINATE SERIOUS INJURIES THROUGH LEGISLATION? Part 2
Step 3 – The Path of Action Must be Based on Universal Terms and Definitions to Reasonably Reduce Playground Injuries?

By Kenneth S Kutska, CPSI
Executive Director
International Playground Safety Institute, LLC
February 13, 2014

Two months ago I ended my column with the following statement: “Assuming the ISO TC 83 terminology paper “Injury and Safety Definitions and Thresholds” is approved and published, I will discuss the definitions for different types of injuries and break down each type into various levels of severity.” As of end of 2013, the document has not been voted on. It is out for a vote and appears to be moving forward towards approval, based upon comments from various international voting members. As I am not sure when this column will run, I will proceed with my thoughts on terms and definitions within this document and how they may impact international standards for child injury prevention. My comments will be directed primarily towards fall related injuries and our current international impact attenuating surface standards.

I hope to put into perspective how playground related injuries and the different levels of injury severity relate to a currently compliant playground surface system. This is not going to be easy but I am going to give it a shot. If nothing else I hope to advance the discussion and provide some issues and facts to better understand how the current standards for evaluating surface systems. This part is easy. The more difficult concept to explain, understand, and accept is, “Does the scope of ASTM F1292 standard for playground surface systems adequately address the scope of the standard as well as ASTM F1487?”

The answer to this question depends on whether the current, and widely accepted impact attenuation thresholds adequately address the severity of injuries international playground standard’s performance safety requirements are attempting to address.

Let’s begin by defining an “injury,” and more importantly let’s understand the various levels of injury severity we are most concerned with and/or willing to address in our international playground related standards. We do not want a child to suffer a serious injury but what is a serious injury? It is easier to define than to accept when it is your child or grandchild on the receiving end of the pain and suffering. Recently I read a statement by Jay Beckwith, an old friend and playground industry colleague, who regularly contributes to this newsletter. He said something so very simple yet profound. Jay, I apologize in advance for not being able repeat your exact words. Your point was that a child must fall in order to learn. This statement rings true and is so basic to human development. Look back at your own childhood. That may be difficult since we have little memory of or most early and formative years but we can all look back at things our own children, grandchildren or even someone else’s children experienced early in life. How many stitches did you get as a child? Did you break an arm or leg? How many times did you say or hear from your spouse, “Should we take him to the hospital, is it broken?”

The research supporting the child development benefits of free play coupled with to Jay Beckwith’s comment on how we learn from our mistakes which allows us all to become all we can be. Unfortunately, but understandably, sometimes someone gets hurt. We all seem to know and willingly accept this fact. If true, then the issue should come down to what level of injury we willing to accept? In reality there will always be some obscure injury where a child is seriously hurt beyond what society seems willing to accept. Thank goodness these types of injuries are exceptions rather than the rule. So when does the frequency and severity of these types of injury warrant action from a government agency or industry standards organizations?

I do not believe this question has been adequately and fairly addressed by the special interests at the extreme ends of either point of view. The current practice lacks a collective consensus taking into consideration a balance between the user safety benefits and the developmental benefits from increasing challenging and risky play opportunities. The benefits from challenge and risk have been well documented throughout the world yet nobody can seem to articulate an acceptable reference point where the risk and statistical probability of serious injury outweighs the developmental benefits of the challenge. I think we can agree that learning to be self-reliant and personally accountable for our own actions are important and necessary life lessons yet we cannot seem to accept the consequences to our actions.

A scraped knee or cut finger is a minor injury. A laceration requiring stitches is more severe, but a sharp edge or crush hazard causing amputation of a toe or finger is serious and debilitating and probably beyond what society is willing to accept. If any of these minor injuries were to become infected, serious consequences could follow. But in this instance who should be held responsible for the consequences resulting from a lack of proper care after the fact. Children contribute to and should be held partially responsible for their own actions and resulting injuries when they play on equipment not intended for their developmental readiness. They should also be held accountable for their actions and outcomes beyond what a reasonable person would consider reasonably foreseeable. Is this fair to all concerned? Some equipment designs may be considered to be inappropriate for the generally unsupervised and unsecured public setting. Some caregivers fail in the supervision of those under their care, which can result in serious injury. Some international communities hold parents and caregivers legally accountable for their improper and unacceptable behavior. In this instance elected policy makers have determined what is best for the common good. How and where society-at-large seems to place blame and accountability are issues the legislative branches of government and the legal system need to seriously consider. Some fair and equitable solution is needed that addresses these concerns or we may lose free play opportunities as some units of government who provide these facilities take the quick and easiest solution available. Unfortunately this choice is to avoid these potential loss exposures by removing these play facilities. There are so many things at play here that when considering all the variables the task appears unmanageable. Avoidance is not the answer to the problem, it is another type of problem of kicking the can down the road thereby leaving everyone in the lurch who deserves a better outcome.

We continue to talk around all these variables from our differing points of view but when it comes to balancing risk and challenge with user safety nobody has come up with a workable solution to the question. There are many special interest groups weighing in on the subject but, thus far, there has been a lot of finger pointing and we do not appear to be any closer to a workable solution.

I would suggest the following as a possible solution. We could start by doing a better job of creating industry play area and equipment standards that meet the objectives of injury reduction if and when we define an acceptable and measurable level of injury outside of the occasional freakish incident. In order to accomplish this we need to agree on and define the injuries we will accept and which injuries we wish to reduce or eliminate. We may never eliminate all serious injuries, but we might be able to put measures in place to mitigate most of these injuries. We can do a better job of education the public and then we must work towards holding parents and caregivers, as well as the children more responsible for their own actions or inactions.

Many have criticized the various safety standards organizations for dumbing down our playgrounds or for reducing the number of play opportunities throughout the country. I disagree with this broad a general statement. ASTM F1487 is a performance based standard but in some ways it has become a bit design restrictive. That being said the ASTM F1487 standard and the US CPSC Handbook has contributed a lot to almost totally eliminate deaths and serious injuries related to head entrapment hazards. No one would argue this outcome cannot be attributed to the 1991 CPSC Handbook and 1993 ASTM F1487 standard recommendations nor can they say the result is not a good thing. The solution was not legislated by government but put out to the public and voluntary industry and consumer recommendations. The results of these recommendations are undeniable and yet, for the most part, unrecognized by the general public and most government officials. There is still much work to be done if we can trust the current injury statistics. The real question is how far should we go with this effort of voluntary or even mandatory safety performance requirements?

I will not go any further at this point to explain where I think we should go and how we might get there. I do not wish to jump the gun so to speak with embracing any further direction until we can agree on an approach to the problem and better define our mission and the scope as it relates to performance based safety recommendations that still embrace the importance of risk taking and increasing challenging play opportunities. Some reasonable balance must be struck between these two equally important opposing points of view. I will continue my discussion on this subject next month.

Until next month, play safe but play. I plan on playing a bit with my playful friends next week at the US Play Coalition Conference on the campus of Clemson University. I hope to have many things to share with you after the conference. The spring looks very busy and full of many play related education and training activities. Immediately following the conference I will be presenting a second playground maintenance technician course sponsored by Clemson University and Gwinnett County Georgia Park and Recreation District. If things keep up as they have weather wise we all might be able to build snowmen or have a snowball fight. This could make for some great pictures. March will include another trip to Malaysia to conduct the Certified Playground Safety Inspector Course and the Playground Maintenance Technician Course as they continue to work towards creating and implementing a playground safety policy for their country. They have created such a policy and requirements and I look forward to learning more of the details on the plan implementation during my visit.

On a final note I would like to congratulate the two CPSI classes I had the privilege of teaching earlier this year in Hong Kong and Singapore. Hong Kong had their best pass rate at 80% and Singapore likewise had their best results at 70%. I can tell you government employees and playground industry representatives from around the world take their responsibility for children’s safety seriously.

We all do are best as best we can. Keep up the good work.

Playground Maintenance Training: What are you doing? A look at the Clemson Playground Maintenance Technician Course One Year Later

Sunday, October 26th, 2014

Playground Maintenance Training: What are you doing? A look at the Clemson Playground Maintenance Technician Course One Year Later
By Kenneth S Kutska, CPSI
Executive Director
International Playground Safety Institute, LLC
January 15, 2014

Happy New Year!

Last month I ended my column with the following statement: “Assuming the ISO TC 83 terminology paper “Injury and Safety Definitions and Thresholds” is approved and published, I intend to discuss the definitions for different types of injuries and ultimately break down each type into various levels of severity.” I hoped to explain how the total sum of playground injuries relate to the different levels of injury severity as well as relating the severity of injury and types to a currently compliant playground surface system per our current surfacing standards. This is a complex discussion and there may not be a definitive black and white solution. The discussion needs to take place if we are understand how the current maximum allowable impact thresholds relate to some quantitative measurement scale for different levels of injury to the same body part or region based upon what ASTM F1487 and ASTM F1292 performance requirements are attempting to address. That was quite a mouthful and I could not wait to get it out. The article is ready to go but….unfortunately I am unable to go forward with the column at this time. As of end of 2013, this terminology document is still in the voting process. It appears to be moving forward towards approval, based upon comments from various international voting members however I am not sure when the voting process will conclude. I therefore have decided not to run my column until the final results are known.

This month my comments will be directed towards playground maintenance and the need for training at all levels of playground management. This is a subject near and dear to my heart. It is one of the four pillars of the National Program for Playground Safety’s S.A.F.E. program. The four S.A.F.E. Factors are:
1. Provide proper supervision of children on playgrounds
2. Design age-appropriate playgrounds
3. Provide proper fall surfacing under and around playgrounds
4. Properly maintain playground equipment.

Step 1 – Supervision, is something most of us cannot do anything about other than post a sign or supervise our own children and grandchildren. I hope some day the U.S. CPSC will find the means to do more to help educate the general public on what proper playground supervision is for a young child on the playground. It should not be a helicopter parent or one who does not allow for any exploration on the playground for fear of failure and injury. We need more information on understanding how children learn through trial and error and how important it is for a child to fall. Children learn each and every time they fall and if they do not learn this important lesson early on in life the consequences of falling may become harder to overcome. Regardless supervision is very important to injury prevention especially in childcare and elementary school environments.

Step 2 – Age-Appropriateness of Play Equipment, is something that is more the manufacturer and playground owner’s responsibility but it too becomes a responsibility of the parent or guardian who should know to look for signs indicating the intended age group of the play area. I think manufacturers and owners have made strides in this area but we cannot control each and every child who may be brought to the playground. That is the responsibility of the supervisor.

Step 3 – Proper Fall Surfacing, is the responsibility of the owner but the surfacing manufacturer has an obligation to provide compete impact testing information to show the critical height of the surface system they are selling as well as the detailed installation, inspection, maintenance, and repair information to the perspective owner of the play area so they may make an informed purchasing decision. Manufacturers can only be expected to provide what is required by voluntary industry standards and it is up to those who create standards or federal regulations to do their part in making sure they are developing performance requirements based upon the best information and research available. It is the owner’s responsibility to meet these requirements at a minimum but I can see from my own experience the need for owner’s to rethink their purchasing requirements and look for something more than just a minimum acceptable surfacing system. How will anyone know when the system falls out of compliance? The answer to this question will be discussed more in my next column when we start to look at compliance versus performance or outcomes from falls to complaint surface systems by today’s standards.

Step 4 – Properly Maintained Play Equipment, is the fourth and final factor. I would suggest we add the words “and Surfacing” after the word Equipment. Maintenance of these valuable community assets is most important to protecting children for injury and preserving the intended life of the play environment. We keep hearing the statistic that almost 40% of the playground injuries requiring medical attention are due to improper or lack of maintenance.

If parents and CPSC are going to try and address the proper supervision of children in the play environment issue and manufacturers are going to deal with age appropriateness of the equipment within their play area designs; then all that is left is for the owner/operators to maintain the area as the manufacturers have instructed. It sounds too simple. If the solution is simple, what is the problem? Why are there so many injuries attributed to lack of maintenance?

It has been a little over a year since the first Clemson University sponsored maintenance course was held in Beaverton Oregon for the Oregon Recreation and Park Association. One year almost to the day they held their second course. They are averaging around 35 people per program. The number of participants per course and the job experience and background of the group has proven to add a lot to the classroom from which benefits everyone.

I will discuss the background of the typical class participant to date in a moment. The Playground Maintenance Technician program was first introduced, in Illinois, by the Park District Risk Management Agency, who developed the course curriculum and classroom materials. PDRMA’s members were the only beneficiaries of the program up until 2011. Since the first course in 2009 I have been involved in at least 10 different course presentations and since 2012 I have been involved in four PMT programs outside Illinois. Since PDRMA and Clemson University reached an agreement to offer the program outside of Illinois I have taught five courses in the USA and internationally. In February I will be teaching the second course for Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation in Georgia and in March there will be another course in Malaysia. This spring there will be two more courses in Colorado and two more in Illinois. To help explain the program and its content the principles have created a new six minute Youtube Video that explains the program in detail.

I urge you to click on the link to learn more about the program. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvtwszvctPk

In the four most recent Playground Maintenance Technician courses I have instructed we analyze approximately 140 program evaluations forms. The program evaluation form was kept rather short. We wanted to see the demographic makeup of who the program was attracting, what their needs and expectations were, whether or not we met their needs, and what they liked or did not like with one open ended question to see if anyone would take the time to share their thoughts. We are finding out who is attending by their job title and employer. We were interested in age, gender, education background, job requirements, type of employer, job responsibilities, number and types of inspections each have conducted. On top of that we needed to know what they each thought about the quality of the presenter, the subject matter, the relevancy of examples used in group activities, printed materials, audio visual aids, and the quality of the teaching environment. We wanted to know if they learned anything new and whether the course met or exceeded their individual expectations. I want to know how the training relates to the participants work situation. We are all different but we have so much in common. Those of us involved in this program had to make assumptions based upon the participants from a typical park and recreation agency member from PDRMA. They have all types of agencies from the very small one person department to a large county or almost statewide organization. We also assumed participants would be from agencies with just one playground to those with over 100. We wanted to find out what type of teaching facility and seating arrangement best meets the needs of the learning experience. We wanted to see how the number of participants effect the learning experience. In other words, what size class is too large? Those involved in the delivery of the program believe the larger the class roster, the less interaction that will take place. Small groups seem less intimidating and a bit more intimate. This environment allows for more interaction among all the participants. We have found that those who interact and participate usually get more out the learning experience. Whether you have 1 playground or 100 the job is the same. The Playground Maintenance Technician’s needs are the same regardless of how large the organization. Knowledge, knowing what to do, along with actual experience, should create an environment that will result in the outcome each owner needs and desires.

My personal observations over the past several years, tells me there is a need for this training at all levels of the organization. The person in the field, who actually conducts routine custodial inspections must know there is more to playground maintenance than just to pick up litter, sweep walkways and remove graffiti or debris throughout the playground area. They have to become proactive and address small problems before they become big ones. They need to be empowered to take appropriate action before someone get hurts. These front line staff members need adequate support at all levels of the organization. Therefore all levels of playground; management, supervision, and maintenance, need to understand the entire scope of a comprehensive playground inspection and maintenance program. Everyone needs to understand when routine maintenance is enough and when repairs or replacement are needed. Everyone on the playground owner’s team should be engaged and understand the entire process. Only then can resources be appropriately allocated to meet the needs of the community and children’s’ safety. Everyone regardless of their position within the organization needs to learn what is expected of the others on the public playground safety team. This concept was very effective in my days with the Wheaton Illinois Park District.

Those of us involved with the program development and delivery need to find out how this training program meets the needs of those on the front line. Without their input we can never be sure the current program content meets both of our expectations.

The last question on the Playground Maintenance Technician participant evaluation form provides the most important and telling information with regards to the relevancy of the program content. Everyone was asked what they liked and did not like about the program. This was an open ended question with space to make any comment they wish. I will first share the current demographics on the participant pool from four courses outside Illinois. Then I will share a few of the comments from the participants. As far as dislikes there were view. Primarily the room physical setup was the most often mentioned. Room comfort is most important since the audience is not use to sitting still for 6 plus hours and sitting on hard chairs is definitely a negative. Chose a site with padded chairs.

This far I have learned the following about the limited number or participants in the past year:

Age of Participants: The classes were 80% male and 20% female broken down this way:
(4% (< 25), 23% (25-34), 30% (35-44), 28% (45-54), 15% (55-64), and 0 % over 65) What Best Describes Your Employer: 70% Local, County, State or Federal Parks and Recreation Agencies, 10% School Districts, 2% University, 4% Play Equipment Suppliers, 2% Not-for-Profit, 12% Other. What Best Describes Your Level of Education: 21% High School, 42% Some College, 28% Bachelor Degree, 9% Masters, (1) PhD What Best Describes Position Within Your Agency: 7% Chief Administrator, 8% Department Head, 28% Supervisor/Foreman, 48% Park Maintenance, 3% School Maintenance/Custodian, 3% Educator, 1% Designer/Planner//LA, <1% Risk Manager, 3% Other. Number of Inspections Performed in Past 12 Months: 7% (None), 50% (1-10), 15% (11-20), 6% (21-30), 6% (31-40), 6% (41-50), 2% (51-60) , 3% (61-70), 1% (71-80), 1% (81-90), 0% (92-100), and 4% (>100)

Number of Audits Performed in Past 12 Months: 76% (None), 18% (1-5), 3% (6-10), <1% (11-15), <1% (16-20), <1% (>21)

Effectiveness of Presenter on a Scale of None – Somewhat – Yes or None Applicable: When we look at the Instructors ability to communicate the course materials, their qualifications to present the course material, and their use of relevant examples to make a point the participants said; 2% were somewhat qualified or effective in presenting the course materials and 98% qualified and effective in their presentation.

Participants learned what they expected: 10% thought the course and materials somewhat met their expectations and 90% thought the course and materials met their expectations.

Usefulness of the instructional materials and handouts: 7% said somewhat and 97% said yes they were useful.

Would you recommend the program to others: Almost everyone said they would recommend to others and 10% had a problem with the length of the program (either is was too long or too short). Some had a problem with the teaching facility or food and amount or length or breaks. Comments ranged from the room was too cold, too hot, crowded, not convenient parking, no veggie option, uncomfortable chairs room lighting, etc. These kinds of comments seem to be universal when it comes to participant evaluations.

I mentioned the importance of the last question on the evaluation. This open ended question resulted in comments ranging from one extreme to the other. In general, everyone loved the program. Some thought it was too general and some thought it was too specific. This is what was expected from such a diverse group based upon their years of experience and job description. Some wanted more task specifics and others thought there was too much detail. Some wanted the course to be one day and others thought it should be one week.

In general, everyone loved the program, instructors, and overall experience. Those with a lot of experience thought they learned new things or it refreshed their memory of things they had forgot. It gave managers a sense of direction for a new or enhanced playground safety program. Those that came with others from the same agency had a new sense of partnership that was lacking. The general written comments from the participants were telling. They supported the assumptions of those responsible for the program’s development. These comments reinforced the need for playground maintenance training at all levels of an organization responsible for the management of a public playgrounds.

At the end of the day every participant had the participant guide and the notes they took during the two days. They also have the 250 plus page manuscript which is the basis for each program module. This will prove to be an invaluable resource as each participant moves along their career path to the point where they too become a playground maintenance expert, or they at least know more than the person who follows them.

Let us all be proactive and improve our skills and do what we can to make our playgrounds safe.

Participants Comments:
“Loved the group discussions and introductory videos at the beginning of each session.”
“Presentation was Comprehensive and easy to understand.”
“Instructors are professional, experienced and eager to share their experiences.”
“I really enjoyed being able to follow along the videos and PowerPoint with my book.”
“Liked that it’s geared more towards the people in the field.”
“Brought a focus to importance of maintenance and record keeping. Gave step by step directions.”
“It will make me better at my job of keeping kids safe.”
“I liked the use of examples that were real life examples and the topics presented were easy to understand without overloading details.”
“Instructor’s all-day enthusiasm, energy, and vast knowledge of playground safety and maintenance kept our classroom lively and fun. I highly recommend this course to all parks and recreation personnel, as it not only teaches valuable knowledge, but makes learning easy with top-notch multi-media.” David Allen Spencer, Grounds Maintenance Associate, Gwinnet County Parks and Recreation, Georgia