According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, over 200,000 children are treated in U.S. emergency rooms each year for playground-related injuries. The National Playground Safety Institute reports 45% of these injuries are critical, including internal injuries, concussions, and amputations.
With such a high risk of potential injury, how can you promote safe play?
Identify Safe Sites
Playground safety surfacing often plays a major role in injury prevention. A 2009 report published by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) revealed that over 44% of playground injuries or deaths were due to falls. The CPSC recommends a playground surface made of poured rubber, rubber tiles, or loose rubber. A rubber playground surface offers critical fall height protection for children on playgrounds, reducing the risk of major injuries leading to disability or death.
Other ways to identify safe sites include:
- Ensuring the playground is in a safe location, with a barrier from nearby traffic or water.
- Checking to see if the playground is well maintained and free from hazards, such as broken glass and loose screws.
- Assessing whether playground structures appear safe for children (i.e. guardrails on climbing equipment, no missing parts on equipment, etc.).
- Confirming the playground is free from high-risk equipment, such as trampolines and multiple occupancy swings.
Monitor Children at Play
Younger children need more supervision, as most playground-related injuries are reported for children under the age of 10. Always adhere to safety signs indicating age ranges for safe play, which are designed to direct children to age appropriate equipment to prevent injury.
More accidents occur on climbing equipment on public playgrounds. Avoid placing children under 4 on climbing equipment and hold their hand on their way down a slide. On home playgrounds, most accidents involve swings. Only place small children in swings designed for their body size.
More safety tips for children include:
- Checking the temperature of the equipment in hot weather to avoid burns.
- Removing modifications (i.e. ropes, strings, clothing and other objects that are not part of the original playground design) that may be unsafe.
- Ensuring children wear proper footwear to avoid burns, cuts, falls, and other injuries.
- Confirming there are no nests, small animals, and animal feces on the equipment.
Teach Children Playground Rules
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most nonfatal injuries occur on public playgrounds, including those at schools and daycares. Most fatalities occur on home playgrounds. Whether at home or at school, accidents can happen on the safest of playground equipment.
Teaching children playground safety is an important part of injury prevention. Playground rules should be emphasized in order to reduce the risk of accidents.
Some simple safety rules for children are:
- Do not use equipment in hot temperatures or wet weather.
- Only use equipment the way it is designed.
- Take turns, or return later to use overcrowded equipment.
- Do not walk in front of moving swings, or other moving equipment.
- Do not crawl under or jump off of moving equipment.
- Refrain from rough play.
Report Playground Hazards
If you locate a playground that is not safe, report your finding to the organization that owns or maintains it. Code enforcement also investigates safety violations on public and private property. Reporting this information can help prevent child injury.
In some cases, playgrounds have been closed and removed due to poor design and improper maintenance. In other instances, modifications can be made to make a playground safer. If you are not sure what to look for, the CPSC publishes a public playground safety handbook. Be vigilant about reporting any concerns; it may save a child’s life or prevent a life-altering injury.