Recruiting and Managing a Safety Team
You've got a big task ahead of you, and you're going to need some help! Learn how to recruit and manage team members, and make effective plans.
Teams and Meetings
Your Safety Team members will help you solicit supplies and services, write children's and volunteer safety materials, create a maintenance plan, and monitor the build site. They should be positive and energetic, and they should have a strong belief in the project. Aim for one to three regular team members, and reach out to diverse segments of the community. While you're recruiting, keep a list of people who are interested in the project but too busy to volunteer right now; their names may come in handy later.
Once you have your Safety Team members recruited, it's time to get down to work. During the initial planning phases, most volunteer teams choose to meet once or twice a month. Be careful not to overwhelm your team with meetings!
Here are some topics that you might want to address at your first Safety Team meeting:
Review the playspace project.
Discuss the overall project vision, as well as the community-build model. Emphasize the potential for a spirited, broad-based effort!
Review your team's goals and strategies.
How does your team fit into the big picture? What makes a playspace safe? How will you ensure site safety for build volunteers and visitors? What's your team's role in long-term safety and maintenance? Discuss your responsibilities, timeline and budget. Brainstorm community resources and personal connections
It's not what you know, it's who you know!
Ask people on your team whether they have friends, relatives, co-workers or neighbors who can offer particular skills/experience in health, safety or education. You may be surprised at the response!
Delegate team tasks.
Do your team members have different interests, skills and schedules? Of course they do! Whenever you can, assign a whole task to someone with a special skill in that area; you'll give each person a chance to shine while making your job a lot easier. And remember to give children a role in planning for safety and maintenance wherever possible; if the kids using the playground know what to look out for and how to stay safe, it will ensure the best experience for them and a longer life for your equipment. Here's one way to break up the Safety Team tasks:
- Soliciting safety supplies for Build Day(s)
- Drafting a comprehensive safety plan
- Serving as a Build Day Safety Coordinator
- Making presentations to local children and parents on playspace safety
- Organizing a long-term maintenance program
Set specific goals for your next meeting.
How will you measure progress? Before you go, agree on a time for your next meeting and create specific deadlines for each of the four main tasks.
The playspace committee
Over the next several months, you will be in constant contact with your co-chair(s) and fellow Team Captains. If you don't already know them, introduce yourself now! Ask your co-chair(s) for a complete listing of everyone's names and contact information, including the best time to call.
Team roles and responsibilities
As you probably already know, each member of the central planning committee (including you!) will head up his or her own team of volunteers. Each of the other team's tasks is as follows:
Children's (and youth) activities team:
This team is responsible for getting children and youth involved in every aspect of the project. This includes planning Design Day and Build Day activities for young people, as well as child-friendly fundraisers and promotional events. The Children's Team will also arrange childcare during community meetings and fundraisers. Coordinate your safety and maintenance curriculum with this team.
This team will manage site preparation and the installation of the playspace; be sure to coordinate Build Day volunteer safety with this captain. The Construction Team will also be responsible for soliciting in-kind donations of tools and materials.
This team is responsible for feeding volunteers during planning meetings, Design Day, fundraisers and the playspace build. They will be soliciting food donations throughout the community.
This team will raise all of the cash needed for the project. This is a huge job; be sure to consult with them when creating and managing your budget, and when choosing businesses to solicit.
This team will work behind the scenes to make sure everything runs smoothly - they arrange for meeting spaces throughout the planning, plus Build Day parking, restroom facilities, electricity/water hook-up, tents, tables and chairs.
Public relations team:
These folks are the project bullhorn! It's their responsibility to make sure that everyone in town knows about the upcoming build. They will work closely with local media and will also produce all promotional flyers, banners and posters.
Volunteer recruitment team:
Every playspace needs people to build it! If your community is using volunteer labor to install the playspace, this team will be responsible for recruiting those hard-working people.
Part of the community-build philosophy is the belief that every community has within it the resources, the skills and the materials to create positive change. Set yourself a goal of getting every necessary item or service donated or loaned to the project. Where in your community can you find help? Write down every resource you can think of – people, businesses, organizations, and institutions. Remember that personal connections between friends, family, schoolmates, co-workers and neighbors are your key to the city! Read a detailed guide on identifying community resources in the community involvement section of the toolkit.
For starters, you need safety accessories and supplies for Build Day. Businesses and organizations can contribute in a variety of ways: extending store credit so that you can purchase disposable items; donating specific items that they have in excess; loaning you reusable supplies and accessories; or donating the labor and services of their employees. Give them plenty of options!
Brainstorm potential sources/partners for each of the materials and services needed:
- Caution tape or temporary fencing
- Safety glasses or goggles
- Back braces
- Hard hats
- Work gloves
- Dust masks
- Plywood sheets
- First-aid kit
- Drinking water (two to four liters per volunteer)
- Fluorescent marking paint
- Ear plugs
- Cell phone (coordinate with co-chairs)
- Fire extinguisher
- Skill-level stickers
- Safety handouts (coordinate with PR captain)
- First-aid providers
- Safety coordinators
Start with the people you know and build a network from the inside out. The lists below will help get you thinking of potential community assets. Before you approach any businesses or organizations, consult with your fundraising, children's, food and construction captains. They are also charged with soliciting community support, and they may be targeting the same individuals and groups. Presenting a coordinated appeal from all the project teams will appear more professional and will reduce donor fatigue.
When people are linked together as a group, they represent another level of community skills and resources. Some organizations may be willing to give you the supplies you need, or co-sponsor a donation program.
- Service organizations
- Fraternal organizations
- Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts
- The Red Cross
- Safety councils
- Public health departments
- Athletic organizations
- Cultural organizations
- Neighborhood organizations
- Churches/Youth groups
- Parks departments
- Labor unions
- Social Service agencies
- Fire/Police departments
- Schools/School boards
- Childcare centers
- Construction companies
- Discount superstores
- Bottled water suppliers
- Hardware stores
- Gardening suppliers
- Medical-supply companies
- Home improvement retailers
- Utilities/Public works
- Grocery stores
- Landscaping companies
- Insurance agencies
- Legal firms
Many local agencies - public-health departments, school boards, hospitals and safety councils - already have playground safety presentations that they've prepared for use in schools. Talk to them about presenting at Design Day or a community meeting! If they charge for their services, ask a business to be a sponsor of the playspace safety effort.
Design Day is one of the things that really sets a community-build playspace project apart. Imagine children dreaming up their ideal playspaces, and then actually conferring with a professional equipment designer! A successful Design Day will really draw attention to the project and raise the level of excitement in your community.
For the Safety Team, Design Day provides a unique opportunity and a crucial leverage point - media may be present, lots of kids and parents will be engaged in the process, and community interest will be piqued. Ask your co-chair(s) about giving a brief presentation on the importance of active playspace safety and supervision. (Or bring in public health or school board officials to give a formal presentation.) If time allows, consider planning additional activities in which children draft their own playspace rules, or discuss a regular maintenance routine. You should also be prepared for community members' questions about safety surfacing, equipment and general site security. Emphasize that long-term safety is the key to healthy play opportunities!
Design Day Date & Time:
Although your playspace hasn't even been built yet, we encourage you to organize formal maintenance plans while enthusiasm and involvement are high! Coordinate the following tasks with your co-chair(s) and construction captain, who will have access to all playspace-related documents and information.
Get it in writing!
Over the years, many different people will drift in and out of your playspace's life - new property owners, city officials, maintenance staff, neighbors, parents and others. They need as much information as possible to make good decisions about site safety, maintenance and usage. Therefore, make sure that all playspace-related documents are stored in a permanent, easily accessible file - starting now! Include information on your equipment, contact information for the manufacturer, and warranty information. You should also include information for the safety surfacing company, especially if you choose a loose-fill surfacing that will need to be replenished every few years. Assign someone to manage and update the file regularly, and train maintenance staff on keeping a log with detailed notes.
Remember that in case of a lawsuit, it's important to prove that proper maintenance procedures have been consistently followed. Incident reports for accidents or vandalism should also be written up and kept on file. For safety and liability reasons, it's important to include as many details as possible: date, time of day, what happened, involved parties, any explanation about the cause of the accident, and follow-up actions taken. Twenty years from now, you'll have a complete history of your playspace!
Budget and Timeline
A playspace build site has certain minimal safety requirements, and your co-chair(s) may have budgeted for these needs when they set a fundraising goal. Talk to your co-chair(s) and Fundraising Captain about funds set aside for safety, and then use the chart below to estimate and track your team's expenses. We encourage you to augment or replace budgeted funds by soliciting donations and partnerships. (This has the added benefit of creating a broader base of support for the playspace!)
Make a note of the amount needed and cost for each of the materials below:
- Build Day Volunteer Accessories
- Site Safety Features (fencing, etc.)
- Supplies for Emergencies
- First-Aid Provider
- Safety Curriculum Materials
- Maintenance Planning Materials
KaBOOM! strongly recommends setting a series of small, tangible goals at the outset of a project to help keep you and your team motivated and focused. If your co-chair(s) haven't confirmed build date(s) as of yet, work with the entire planning committee to agree on an ideal timeline. Then work backward to fill in Safety Team tasks such as gathering supplies and educating people about safety. Here's a sample timeline for your team; feel free to create your own (and add as many activities as you want)!
As you delve further into this project, you're probably realizing that you simply can't do everything alone. That's why you have team members! A large part of your job will be to motivate, instruct, advise and help others as they implement your plan. Being a leader also means keeping meetings on track and managing time wisely! Hone your team captain skills with these simple tips:
Delegate complete jobs rather than portioning out small tasks.
Team members aren't there to do your "busy work"! If you put your trust in them, they'll rise to the occasion and give you a more creative, thoughtful response.
Clarify the job before delegating.
Make very clear your expectations, the job's priority, the deadline, who can help them, and how this task fits into the big picture.
Give help when requested.
And not before then! It's important to step back, resist the urge to micromanage, and let your team members do their work. (But be there in a pinch.)
Repeat what you've heard to make sure you understood. Pay attention to non-verbal behavior (gestures, posture, tone of voice). Put yourself in their shoes.
At every meeting, it's important to record what was accomplished, what new goals or deadlines were set, and who said what.
Set an agenda, and agree upon meeting procedures.
What topics will be discussed? Who will speak and in what order? Having fair and consistent procedures will keep people focused during lengthy meetings.
Set time limits.
Meetings tend to go on until someone stops them. Let people know how much time they have to speak, and stick to it.