Keeping Your Playground Safe
Playgrounds can be a fun environment for children to get exercise and practice social skills. However, poorly designed playground structures can severely injure children and put an end to an otherwise delightful experience.
Aging playground equipment can be particularly hazardous because it was constructed at a time where quality research on playground safety was very limited. Regardless of the equipment itself, a playground safety surface can often make the difference between minor scrapes and hospitalization.
Around 79 percent of all playground accidents are from children falling off equipment, which is why building a safe play environment should start with a safe, soft surface.
The following seven playground structures are potentially harmful and should either be avoided or used with caution.
Climbing structures with horizontal ladders, also known as "Monkey Bars,” are a potential playground hazard because children can fall from a high distance and injure themselves when landing. According to a Consumer Product Safety Commission report, horizontal ladders are responsible for around 60 percent of all climber-related injuries. Children may lose their grip and slip off horizontal ladders in normal use, or fall off the top when using the structure improperly.
As for other climbers, ladders with spacing with 3.5 and 9-inches of open area between rungs are also an entrapment hazard. Any sort of protruding bolt on the climber structure itself is an injury risk. Bolts that feature a nut or pad at the end creates a hook that is a strangulation risk, as well.
2. Structures with Ropes and Cords
3. Heavy and Multiple Occupant Swings
5. Metal Slides
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 200,000 children under the age of 14 suffer injuries on the playground each year. The range of these injuries can be devastating – the CDC reports that 45% of playground-related injuries are severe injuries that include fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations, and amputations.
Here are four things you can do to prevent playground accidents.
1. Check the surface on the playground.
2. Check the equipment on the playground and keep it well-maintained.
Key items such as checking to be sure there are no openings from 3.5”-9” where a child’s head or body trappings could occur. There can be no open areas at the top of the slides where strings could get caught and cause strangulation. There can be no more than two swings in a support structure.
Other maintenance is also required such as checking and making sure that the equipment hasn’t rusted, and that there are no missing or damaged pieces. For example, if bolts meant to keep the equipment firmly attached to the ground go missing, the safety of every child that plays on it becomes compromised.
3. Check the temperature.
Parents and caregivers should always check for hot surfaces on playground equipment before allowing children to play on it. Likewise, the playground surfaces that are not covered by shade can become very hot, as well. Some surfaces such as sand and pea gravel can actually absorb and retain the heat, making them 5 to 10 degrees hotter in the summer months.
According to the CSPC, exposed concrete and asphalt around the playground area can become very hot, as well. The CPSC also stresses that it doesn’t have to be extremely hot for burns to occur – there have been reported cases of burns that occurred in 74-degree weather.
4. Beware of choking and strangulation hazards.
Wearing bike helmets on the playground may also pose a strangulation hazard. In 1999, the CPSC issued a warning against wearing bike helmets on playgrounds when a 3-year-old Pennsylvania boy died from strangulation after his bike helmet became wedged as he tried to get through a small opening in the playground equipment. Instead, providing softer surfaces can help to prevent head injuries from falls without the possible strangulation hazards nets and helmets can pose.
This information is courtesy of No Fault Sport Group, www.nofault.com.