Playing it safe on the playground

It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt. How many times did we hear that as children? Yet, more than 200,000 children are taken to the emergency room for playground equipment-related injuries each year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Kids can stay safe and still have fun. But it’s important to put these safety measures in place for your facility’s playground:

Surfaces
Playground equipment should sit on a well-cushioned base of wood chips, sand, pea gravel, shredded rubber, or safety-tested rubber mats. How much fill you need depends on the material and the potential fall height, although the CPSC recommends a depth of 12 inches as a general guideline.

Entrapment
When kids are climbing on play equipment, they’ll often stick their feet through an opening first and then attempt to slide the rest of their body through, getting stuck in the process. Make sure openings in guardrails and ladders are less than 3.5 inches or more than nine inches.

Other safety tips
  • Check for sharp points or protruding hardware.
  • Look for trip hazards like tree roots or exposed concrete footings.
  • Review equipment spacing. For example, an eight-foot swing set should have 16 feet of clearance front and back to prevent a child from falling (or jumping) off and striking another piece of equipment. Slides should have a minimum of six feet clearance at the bottom exit.

Promote play
Playground safety doesn’t mean wrapping kids in bubble wrap. The goal is still to have fun. With that in mind, provide adequate adult supervision for your playground, but don’t simplify the play structures so much that kids get bored and leave them unused.

For help evaluating your playground, visit the National Recreation and Park Association website for certified inspectors in your area, and check out our Playground Safety Checklist.

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