Whatever the weather or time of year, my day starts early. I have always loved being outdoors, doing practical activities and appreciating natural environments, so the best start to the day for me is a 5.30 am walk with my dog, Bella. Osea Beach is a great setting to see the sunrise, and the calm of Danbury Woods and fields is another favourite.
Sometimes, I need to be on my way to work by 6am as I have a full set of inspections to complete at various locations throughout the day. I feel it is really important to keep to schedule so that clients know exactly when to expect me and can plan for minimal disruption to their businesses and school day. I drive a van from the Sportsafe fleet of new, low emission vehicles and pack it the night before with all the equipment I need for the day. This means there is no unnecessary rushing around in the morning and I can be confident that everything is ready for use as soon as I get to the client.
I feel so lucky to have such a practical and varied way to earn a living. I don’t think I would have enjoyed a desk job much as I really thrive on working in a different location each day, meeting new people at every site, and generally needing to apply my practical, technical and problem-solving skills all the time.
My first port of call today is at a secondary school where I am carrying out an annual inspection of their outdoor sports and fitness equipment. I have been here before as this school is a registered inspection client and has relied on Sportsafe for its sports equipment supplies, installations, inspections and repairs for a number of years now.
Nonetheless, I head straight to reception when I arrive, well before the start of the official school teaching day, to sign in. All Sportsafe engineers are DBS-checked and uniformed, not just for our own sense of professionalism but to provide reassurance and security, especially for our education clients.
Attention to detail that is absolutely crucial in my work
I am pleased to have arrived before the pupils so that I can get straight to work with minimum disruption to lessons and outside activities. Today, I have their Multi-Use Games Area, Outdoor Fitness zone, four Football goals and the Rubgy posts to inspect. It is attention to detail that is absolutely crucial in my work – and it is this attention, reinforced by my experience and training, that enables customers to relax, knowing that anyone using the equipment and facilities is doing so in the safest possible circumstances.
As this school has always had regular inspections and maintenance with Sportsafe for its sports facilities, there is not much to be repaired here today and so, apart from a tear in one goal netting which I am able to fix immediately on site, I am able to give positive verbal to the bursar and will use our electronic reporting system to give the school my full inspection report (with a few recommendations for things to keep an eye on) within two working days.
I sign out from that school and move on to have a look at a damaged Trim Trail at the primary school just down the road. A significant amount of our business comes from word-of-mouth recommendations as school managers talk to each other at conferences, exhibitions and in the community in general, so it is nice to know that this school had contacted Sportsafe after a good word from the secondary school I have just visited.
Again, I go to reception first to sign in properly and to discuss the work I am going to do. It is really important that the school knows exactly where I will be and any safety issues before I begin so that staff and pupils feel comfortable with my presence and know which areas of the school may be out of bounds for a short while.
Children may be small but they can give outdoor equipment a tough time!
They have had this Trim Trail for a while and it is beginning to show signs of wear and tear. I check each part really carefully for splinter potential, part security and stability. Children may be small but they can give outdoor equipment a tough time! This is what is for, though – the whole point is that they can explore the shapes and activities along the Trim Trail whilst also using up all that excess energy, leaving them ready to focus on lessons in class. Trim Trails are particularly good for developing balance skills, social interaction and creativity so they are a valuable addition to any primary school outdoor area for both playtimes and directed curriculum.
I am happy that the main Trim Trail is still totally safe for use but will be advising on maintenance and future replacement options in my report. The secondary Trim Trail has an unstable post, the chin-up bars are not as robust anymore as they should be and some of the tyres on the tyre crossing are getting worn. I seal this area with clear warning tape to make it inaccessible for the children and safe for all to navigate around and go to discuss the situation with the Head of PE and the school site team manager. Again, my full inspection report and recommendations will be with the school within two working days and the Sportsafe team are online and on the phones to support the school at any time.
My next stop is a primary school about an hour’s drive away. Sportsafe is proud to have engineers within 90-minutes’ travelling distance of any client across the UK. This is great for clients, especially in an emergency, as we can get to them quickly but it also excellent planning for us engineers as our days are well-structured to enable us to be as time-efficient and calm as possible. I just have time to grab some lunch and a short break before arriving at the appointed time.
At this site, I am carrying out an inspection of their indoor gym equipment. The hall doubles as the lunch hall and the school gym, so I am able to introduce myself, sign in and get ready whilst the hall is cleared after lunch and all the pupils are guided outside for their lunch break. I am conscious that the PE teacher needs the space for a lesson later in the afternoon but I am also totally focussed on ensuring everything is totally safe and as it should be before I can pass the facility for continued use.
Mats are a key feature of any school indoor sports area and they are used for so many activities. Everyone thinks a mat is just a mat and their safety can be assessed by a quick glance! It is my job to check them much more thoroughly and to use my knowledge of materials and impact to be sure they are safe for their multiple uses. I have to make sure there are no tears that could catch little fingers or toes and that the foam inside is still providing consistent coverage and impact resistance.
Ropes with knots tied in the bottom can do some serious damage
The ropes are another area that I often see ‘misuse’ that the untrained eye would not notice – ropes with knots tied in the bottom can do some serious damage to a pupil if waved around in the excitement of a lesson. Another one of the most common and most potentially painful mistakes, is when the hall is used for meetings or shows and signs are stapled to the climbing frame. Ow! The signs may get removed but people forget to take the staples out and sometimes even leave them half pulled out with a very sharp, metal point ready to cut skin as children use the frame for climbing.
My final job of the day is a Basketball board and hoop replacement at another primary school just twenty minutes’ away. Again, this is a school that Sportsafe has worked with for a while now and they know what to watch out for on a daily basis for the safety of their pupils and staff. The Basketball equipment could safely last a little longer but this school is hosting a Basketball tournament for several schools in the area next month and they want to be as professional as possible within a reasonable budget.
I am able to fit the new board and hoop without problem and then I just go round and give the court a quick look over to see if all the markings and floor surface are up to purpose too. Everything looks fine but I think the school may be considering a full sports hall refurbishment in the future as they have a strong focus on the importance of sport, fitness and play on wellbeing here.
I get back to HQ about 5pm, which gives me time to unpack the van and prep it ready for tomorrow, whilst catching up with colleagues on their day and talking over conversations, leads and advice to be provided from my clients today.
Back home for another walk with Bella – and the satisfaction of a good day’s work done.