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Design and Inspections Improve Splash Pad Safety

Splash pads — also known as interactive fountains, spray pads, spray parks or wet decks — are a fun aquatic addition to any neighborhood park. They are a great place for children of all ages to cool off in a fun and safe way. Parents do not have to worry about their children swimming in deep water or their swim level, and the facilities require no life jackets or floaters. 

While splash pads are an effective way to stay active and cool in the summer months, the safety of the children playing on them should be a priority. Cities and towns can address risk exposures through proper preplanning and design.  

Recreation departments need to plan carefully when considering the addition of a splash pad. Site selection is as important as engaging a qualified and insured contractor. The experienced contractor can offer options that minimize pinch-points, protrusions and other injury-causing hazards. Splash pads need to use non-skid materials to help with surfaces that can become slippery with water. Staff should also consider protecting the play surface from extreme sunlight. Heat injuries such as burns can be caused if the splash pad surface becomes too hot while children are playing. 

Splash pad systems recycle water, so sanitation and water sources are a critical concern for operators. Installing proper drainage can prevent the pooling of water on the play surfaces, which helps reduce the growth of bacteria and algae. Barriers should be in place to prevent storm water and debris from running onto the play surface.  

Recreation staff should take care to operate the splash pad in a clean and sanitary manner. They should develop a daily inspection plan to identify hazards or exposures before the splash pad is opened each day. Use daily visual checks to ensure there are no hazards such as debris, broken glass and rocks on the splash pad surface. Install safety and emergency equipment to respond to any hazards associated with the use of the splash pad. This can include first aid kits, automated external defibrillators and safety signage. Conduct water quality testing each day and record the results. The water chlorination levels should meet the minimum requirement set by SC Department of Health and Environmental Control standards. Action should be taken if the results do not meet the minimum requirement. These actions include closing the park until the deficiencies have been corrected.  

Find more information on splash pad regulations in at SC Department of Health and Environmental Control's Regulation 61-51.