Playground safety is a boost for contractor’s business
When independent contractor Bruce Simons saw his construction jobs dwindle due to the struggling economy, he knew he had to reinvent himself.
With ten years of construction jobs under his belt, he would have never guessed that playground safety might be his salvation.
“When we saw the construction industry take a hit, we knew we had to do something,” said the retired US Navy non-commissioned officer, who has general contracting experience with tiling, masonry, small carpentry and plumbing.
His company, High End Construction, had just completed a smaller project for the Ministry of Education when Mr Simons was approached to find a solution for the ground surface area of the playground at the Dame Majorie Bean Academy, a school for children with special needs.
When he told his wife, Margo, a former educator, she knew that there was a real need for safer playgrounds and pushed him to focus his attention on this potential area of new business. Having four children of their own, the couple also knew their way around a playground.
Mr Simons researched the different available options and found a “poured-in-place” surface product that has become popular in the US and Europe and is on the recommended list of America’s National Program for Playground Safety. According to organisation, between 2001-2008, more than 200,000 US preschool and elementary children received emergency department care for injuries that occurred on playground equipment.
The shock absorbent material Mr Simons found is not unlike the material that covers the track at the National Stadium and can come in a variety of bright colours and thickness.
Mr Simons flew in “overseas consultants” to teach him and his crew how to prepare and install the material in accordance to the standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).
The ‘poured-in-place’ surfacing meant that Mr Simons had to excavate the area near the playground, level the dirt, consider proper water drainage, then lay concrete and then pour in a top layer of recycled rubber material.
The surfacing is tailored in that the thickness of the shock absorbent layers is determined by the height of the playground equipment it surrounds, a standard that is outlined by ASTM.
Mr Simons begun construction in June 2011 and completed it August 2011. Graphic artist, Dean Richards, did the stencilling and layout of the colours included on the surfacing. The result is a bright, colourful and safe area for the schoolchildren to play picturing red and blue shapes, big monster footprints as well as a picture of land and sea.
“Everyone is happy about it,” he said, adding that he gave the school one year’s worth of maintenance should the surfacing need touching up. “It’s non-slip, shock absorbent, and has very little maintenance compared to loose fill material like pea gravel and rubber mulch.”
He is now in talks with public and private schools about installations and said that the product has other applications as well.
“You can do nurseries, pool decks, patios, netball and tennis courts as well as driveways,” said Mr Simons.
He’s hoping that should his new idea catch on, it might help bolster his business in times when no job is certain.
“This project was a blessing of sorts,” he said. “We’re making kids safe, one playground at a time.”
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