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Safety at the Playground

It's not often you see kids measuring a playground, but Chayce, Jonas and Zach are learning playground safety.

Chayce says, "If there's dirt, and someone falls off an eight-foot-fall, it's exactly like smashing into a brick wall at 30 miles an hour."

Their parents, Rod and Ricki, are learning too.

Rod says, "In a playground, for the age of two to five, not to be higher than six feet, or basically, my height."

Ricki adds, "Probably, the first thing I would look for is signs to get an indication of how age-appropriate the equipment is."

They're using the National Program for Playground Safety's Kid Checker as their guide. Also on the checklist: spaces should be less than three-and-a-half inches or more than nine. Surfaces should be smooth and signs posted with age recommendations and warnings.

Perhaps most important is to look down.

Donna Thompson says, "Seventy percent of the injuries occur from falls to surface."

Donna Thompson believes many of these can be prevented.

"Parents should be sure not to take their preschoolers to school playgrounds because the equipment is not built for that size of a child," she adds.

Meanwhile, Zach and Jonas have their own advice.

Jonas says, "Look and see if there are any parents around."

Zach adds, "Don't stick your head in there."

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Public Playground Safety Checklist

  • Make sure surfaces around playground equipment have at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, or pea gravel, or are mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials.

  • Check that protective surfacing extends at least six feet in all directions from play equipment. For swings, be sure surfacing extends, in back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar.

  • Make sure play structures more than 30 inches high are spaced at least nine feet apart.

  • Check for dangerous hardware, like open "S" hooks or protruding bolt ends.

  • Make sure spaces that could trap children, such as openings in guardrails or between ladder rungs, measure less than 3.5 inches or more than nine inches.

  • Check for sharp points or edges in equipment.

  • Look out for tripping hazards, like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.

  • Make sure elevated surfaces, like platforms and ramps, have guardrails to prevent falls.

  • Check playgrounds regularly to see that equipment and surfacing are in good condition.

  • Carefully supervise children on playgrounds to make sure they're safe.

Home Playground Safety Tips

  • Protective Surfacing - Since almost 60 percent of all injuries are caused by falls to the ground, protective surfacing under and around all playground equipment can reduce the risk of serious head injury.

  • Use Zones - A use zone, covered with a protective surfacing material, is essential under and around equipment where a child might fall. This area should be free of other equipment and obstacles onto which a child might fall.

  • Swing Spacing - To prevent injuries from impact with moving swings, swings should not be too close together or too close to support structures. Swing spacing should be:
    • At least eight inches between suspended swings and between a swing and the support frame.
    • At least 16 inches from suing support frame to a pendulum see- saw.
    • Minimum clearance between the ground and underside of swing seat should be eight inches.
    • Swing sets should be securely anchored.

  • Elevated Surfaces - Platforms more than 30" above the ground should have guardrails to prevent falls.

  • Potential Head Entrapment Hazards - In general, openings that are closed on all sides, should be less than 3.5 inches or greater than nine inches Openings that are between 3.5 feet and nine inches present a head entrapment hazard because they are large enough to permit a child's body to go trough, but are too small to permit the head to go trough. When children enter such openings, feet first, they may become entrapped by the head and strangle.

  • Potential Entrapment and Strangulation Hazards - Open "S" hooks, especially on swings, and any protrusions or equipment component/hardware which may act as hooks or catch-points can entangle with children's clothing and cause strangulation incidents. Close "S" hooks as tightly as possible and eliminate protrusions or catch-points on playground equipment.

  • Pinch or Crush Points - There should be no exposed moving parts which may present a pinching or crushing hazard.

  • Playground Maintenance - Playgrounds should be inspected on a regular basis. Inspect protective surfacing especially mulch, and maintain the proper depth. If any of the following conditions are noted, they should be removed, corrected or repaired immediately to prevent injuries:
    • Hardware is loose or worn, or that has protrusions or projections.
    • Ropes, and items with cords placed around the neck can get caught on playground equipment and strangle a child. Many children have died when a rope they were wearing got caught on playground equipment, or they became entangled in a rope.
    • Supervise, and teach your child safe play. Teach your child not to walk or play close to a moving swing, and not to tie ropes to playground equipment.
    • Exposed equipment footings.
    • Scattered debris, litter, rocks, or tree roots.
    • Rust and chipped paint on metal components.
    • Splinters, large cracks, and decayed wood components.
    • Deterioration and corrosion on structural components which connect to the ground.
    • Missing or damaged equipment components, such as handholds, guardrails, swing seats.

Source: www.cpsc.gov (The Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site) contributed to this report.


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