It's My Job: Playground professional: Fluto makes living installing playground equipment
West Fargo - Child’s play is serious business for Zach Fluto.
To date, the company has installed playground equipment in 45 city parks, schools, churches, day cares and apartment complexes across North Dakota, South Dakota and northwest Minnesota.
Fluto is also part-owner of Premium Decks, a company that specializes in the construction of decks, gazebos, pergolas, trellises and outdoor lighting.
He was inspired to get into the business after reading a public notice asking for bids for Fargo’s Mickelson Park playground in 2008.
How did you get into this business?
After I saw the notice, I started looking into playground manufacturers who didn’t have representation in our area. I became comfortable with Playcraft right away.
I wound up doing Mickelson Park as a subcontractor. They flew somebody out here to install with me because you need to be a certified playground inspector to go through the bidding and installation process.
After that first project, I took my time before bidding another. I needed to get my certified playground safety inspector license, and I wanted to learn more about the equipment before I started slinging out bids. I wanted to be confident in what I was doing, so it was about a year before we really started installing.
It worked out well owning Premium Decks because I had the employees and the equipment to do all that. It was a really good fit.
We also sell the area’s only locally produced and certified playground mulch called Flex Fiber. We buy wood chips and have the product ground locally. Flex Fiber also meets ADA standards, meaning you can propel a wheelchair across it.
What is the most important aspect of how you do business?
Safety is No. 1. As an installer, you have to have such a good handle on everything because a screw-up could be deadly. We have to follow regulations for every piece of equipment for things like how far it can be from a border or another piece of equipment.
We also recommend customers use surfacing other than gravel, peat rock or sand. Ninety percent of all accidents on a playground happen from impact onto the ground, from falling off the equipment and hitting the ground. That’s why you want to make sure you have the best surfacing available.
What are some of the challenges of the job?
My challenges usually are weather-related during the install. Water can be just so detrimental. It can make a one-week project two weeks.
What do you like most about the job?
I like the sense of accomplishment you get when you’re done. When you’re doing the install, you just see it coming together every day. You’re also building this relationship with the community. At the end, kids are lined up at the ribbon-cutting ceremony and they’re so excited.