Sports Equipment: The Importance of Athletic Equipment Inspections
Inspections of athletic equipment are critical actions to take to avoid expensive or catastrophic losses. The best time to inspect equipment is prior to the start of any sport season. It helps to ensure the equipment meets regulation standards and is safe for both athletes and spectators.
Maintenance or inspections should never be performed by third parties, but instead by factory-authorized personnel to verify all equipment is in proper working order according to the manufacturer's specifications. It is the safest way to ensure your equipment is being handled and fixed correctly to minimize any chance of serious injury while repairing the problem yourself.
Most major manufacturers require annual inspections. These inspections must be performed to maintain the validity of the warranty coverage. More important, they reduce the chance of injury or damage caused by worn or misaligned parts. It is recommended that multi-use facilities and year-round athletic complexes perform inspections more frequently to prevent downtime or loss of revenue due to equipment failures. If a product has a 10-year warranty, do not wait 10 years to have it inspected.
It is important to be educated about the athletic equipment you are responsible for.
All hoisted equipment, whether anchored to the ceiling or wall, should be maintained to the highest standards and be evaluated for structural stability and proper anchoring. Safety devices should also be installed and evaluated. If anything hangs above the heads of athletes or spectators, rule of thumb suggests keeping that equipment and its safety features in pristine condition.
From ball storage carts to basketball assemblies to bleachers, most athletic equipment has moving parts that will break down over time. A loose wheel on an equipment cart can disengage and damage a gymnasium floor, costing thousands to repair. A slam dunk could break a glass backboard on an old basketball assembly and cause injury to surrounding athletes. Unsecured nuts and bolts on bleacher legs can lead to a collapse, causing numerous spectator injuries.
Replacement or repair of worn or damaged equipment should always be a priority and completed at the first opportunity. Be mindful of the integrity of your equipment, and maintain a thorough inspection plan to ensure all screws are tight, no rust is developing on hardware, no components are missing, and all cables are in premium condition. The simplest repair can save money and minimize the occurrence of accidents.
Compliance with code is critical.
Some athletic equipment has different inspection and maintenance needs. For example, bleachers need to be inspected every year and must be compliant with particular codes. A common point of failure for bleachers is due to lack of maintenance around the units. Cleaning underneath them helps protect the integrity of their structure. Objects dropped by spectators will fall under the bleachers and cause potential damage to the structure, thereby posing a danger to the spectators themselves. While bleacher inspection code may be strict, the safety benefits of such inspections are invaluable.
Many reputable inspection firms include basic hardware changes within the cost of inspections. It is important to remember to insist that all inspections are conducted as "hands on" where hardware and fittings are physically touched and evaluated. Walk-through inspections are beneficial to the obvious deficiencies of equipment, but should not replace the "hands on" inspection.
A thorough inspection will identify equipment age and operational status. It will recommend proper routine maintenance and identify the life expectancy of your equipment. Properly trained inspectors will require observation of the equipment in operation, as well as have access to every part. They will also document the process of the evaluation and take photos of the equipment. This documentation is valuable, should be kept on file and serves as a record of your maintenance program.
There are many benefits that come from a solid athletic equipment maintenance plan.
The inspection process offers additional benefits outside of safety performance and product lifecycle. Oftentimes, inspectors may provide training to you and your staff covering the procedures to safely operate your athletic equipment. Mix training with a thorough product maintenance plan for a winning combination that promotes years of trouble-free equipment operation.
Annual inspections, let alone routine inspections, are not always front of mind awareness. But their level of importance should never be underestimated.