Each year, more than 200,000 kids are treated in hospital ERs for injuries they sustained on church, school and community playgrounds. Careful planning of your playground, as well as proper preventive maintenance, including periodic inspections, can help prevent such injuries. Here are some important things to know to help keep the children safe on the playground.
Playground Safety – Some Important Things To Know
The Playground Surface
Be aware that about 70 percent of playground injuries are the result of falls. Selection and maintaining the appropriate surface is a critical factor in preventing such injuries.
- Do not install playground equipment over hard ground such as asphalt, concrete, bare ground, and even grass.
- The surfaces around all equipment should have at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, pea gravel or similar materials to cushion a child’s fall. An alternative is the use of safety mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials.
- The protective surfacing should extend at least six feet in all directions from the playground equipment.
You should inspect your playground frequently – even consider involving children in the inspection process; they can be great at spotting hazards an adult eye might overlook, plus it teaches them the importance of safety. More detailed inspections should be scheduled on a regular basis including lubrication of any moving parts. Keep an eye out for these hazards and respond quickly if repairs are needed.
- Broken equipment or any rusting on metal equipment.
- Worn-out chains, ropes, splintered or cracked wood.
- Tripping hazards (tree roots, loose boards, etc.).
- Debris such as broken glass or sharp metal objects.
- Missing parts, loose bolts, nuts, screws, sharp edges, or damaged “s” hooks.
- Surface material that has become packed or thin in areas around the “fall zones” of the playground equipment.
Unsafe Playground Equipment
These types of equipment are not safe for playgrounds:
- animal figure swings
- glider swings that hold more than one child at a time
- swinging ropes that can fray, unravel, or form a noose (any kind of rope attached to play equipment poses a strangulation hazard, so never let your child tie jump ropes or leashes onto the equipment)
- exercise rings (as used in gymnastics) and trapeze bars
- monkey bars
Keep in mind that “personal injuries” account for about 10% of the cases that wind up in court and generally based on negligent selection of workers or negligent supervision of the activities and participants, so it’s important for your ministry to take an active role in playground safety. For even more information, see also the Public Playground Safety Handbook published by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.