Preventing Playground Injuries

Preventing Playground Injuries

August 10, 2017.

Many people have great memories of going out to the backyard or to the local park and playing on the swings or other apparatus. However, for some children, it isn’t always fun.

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, each year approximately 50,000 children go to U.S. hospital emergency rooms because of injuries on home playground equipment and more than 200,000 children go to the hospital for injuries that occur on public playground equipment.

The most common injuries occur because of falls (about 80% of injuries occurring on home equipment and 44% of injuries occurring on public playground equipment).  However, many children also die from entanglement with ropes, cords or leashes that were attached to equipment, or when drawstrings on their clothing get caught on equipment.  Other common causes of injuries or death related to playground equipment are caused by equipment issues, like breakage or tip-over.

How can we give our children those great memories of playing at the park or in the yard, but still keep them safe?

Age Appropriate: Make sure that the equipment is age appropriate for your child/children.  There are safety standards in place for children in each of the following age groups:

– Toddler:              6 months – 2 years

– Preschool:          2 – 5 years

– Grade School:   5 – 12 years

Clearly, what would be considered safe for a 12 year old is not the same as what is safe for a 2 year old.  A public playground should have signs posted that clearly indicate the age group for which the equipment is appropriate. The manufacturer of equipment used for home playgrounds must also provide this information.

Layout: The layout of the equipment is something that you should look at when going to a public playground and when deciding where home playground equipment should be placed. The equipment should be placed so that the caregiver has a clear line of sight so they can track the children as they play on the equipment.  The equipment should also be spaced a safe distance from any concrete walkways, walls, fences or other structures.  Shading is also important.  If it is a hot day, the equipment can get very hot and potentially cause burns.

Surfacing: The surfacing under the equipment can be the difference between life and death if a child falls from a piece of equipment.  Although some injuries, like broken limbs, can occur regardless of the type of surfacing used, certain surface materials can minimize head injuries from falls. It is important to make sure that the equipment your child is using has protective surfacing underneath it. Approved surfacing can either be loose-fill, like sand, wood chips, etc. or “unitary”, a one-piece rubbery material that has been poured over the entire space under the equipment.  Grass and dirt are not approved surfaces under playground equipment.

Maintenance: Like any other piece of equipment, playground equipment needs regular maintenance.  Look for areas where there might be an exposed screw or bolt, a cracked or sharp area, missing or worn out surfacing underneath the unit.

Modifications: Many deaths occur due to entanglement in ropes, cords or leashes that have been attached to play structures.  Do not allow your children to bring or use these objects while on the play equipment.  Avoid dressing your children in sweaters that have drawstrings, as they can also catch on equipment.

Tip-overs: Equipment that is not properly secured can tip over and fall on top of children.  When installing equipment at home, make sure it is properly secured.  If a piece of playground equipment appears to be wobbly, do not allow your children to play on or near it.

Supervision: The most important way to keep your children safe is to make sure they are properly supervised and understand that playground equipment should be used as it has been designed.

Children just want to have fun and rarely take into account these hazards. By taking proper precautions to make sure that their play area is free of hazards, hopefully they will have great memories of playing outdoors and having fun.

You can obtain specific information about this from the Consumer Products Safety Commission.


Article courtesy of Robin Holmes, Claims Supervisor at Carl Warren & Company.