Many of us remember the excitement of the fun of outdoor play! We no doubt also will remember some scrapes and bumps from playground falls.
On an average day, approximately 548 children receive emergency room care for playground-related injuries. Most injuries result from falls to a playground surface and the majority are reported to involve swings, climbers, monkey bars, and slides.
The first step to safety is to take a close look at your playground and its equipment. Inspect your playground based on the "Consumer Product Safety Commission Handbook for Public Playground Safety" or the CPSC Ten Steps Towards a Safer Playground"(summarized below). These publications are available from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C., 20207; (800) 638-2772.
|CPSC TEN STEPS TOWARDS A SAFER PLAYGROUND|
|1. Does the playground surface offer maximum protection in the event of a fall? Preferred surfaces include double shredded bark mulch, wood chips, fine sand or gravel, all at depth of 12 inches.|
|2. Falls zones are surfaces that are free from any obstructions. Do the fall zones on your playground extend a minimum of six feet around each piece of equipment.|
|3. Are structures that are more than 30" high spaced at least nine feet apart?|
|4. Are swings at least two feet apart horizontally and 30" from any structural support?|
|5. Do platforms that are 30" or more above the ground have guardrails?|
|6. Are openings and spaces in the equipment less than 3-1/2" or more than 9" so children cannot get their heads caught in them?|
|7. Is there any protruding hardware that needs to be eliminated? Also, watch for catch points such as the open "S" hooks on swings or sharp edges. Eliminate moving parts that could crush or pinch a child's finger.|
|8. Are there any tripping hazards that need to be removed, such as tree stumps and roots, or exposed concrete footings?|
|9. Are there any broken, cracked, deteriorating parts, or rust? Be sure to eliminate these and check to ensure that all hardware is secure?|
|10. Is the play area designed so children can be seen at all times by supervising adults?|
That last point is an important one. Forty percent of playground injuries are related to inadequate supervision, so be sure you have enough volunteers or staff so that all children can be seen. Also, check to be sure that the playground equipment is age-appropriate. For example, equipment designed for eight to 12-year-olds is often too large or awkward for kindergartners.
Finally, children should avoid wearing loose clothing and clothing with drawstrings. The loose material and strings can get caught and cause accidental strangulation.