Summertime safety may cause you to think about boating, swimming pool, or heat stroke incidents. A somewhat hidden safety concern, especially in warmer months, involves child safety on playgrounds – both public and private. Each year, more than 200,000 children visit emergency rooms after being injured while playing on a playground. Approximately 15 lose their lives. The key in lowering these numbers is understanding the dangers that can be present on playgrounds so that you can prevent your children from being a part of those horrific statistics.
There’s a different between a risk and a hazard on playgrounds. We want our children to take risks out on the playground because that’s how they learn and grow. We need to eliminate the most common playground hazards so that when they take those risks they won’t get hurt. Many hazards are invisible to a parent’s untrained eye and a child’s untrained body. According to certified playground safety inspector Bill Foelsch of the National Recreation and Park Association, the most critical dangers include:
- Improper surfacing: Wood chips are the most common cushioning surface for falls and they work well, but they’re supposed to be at least nine inches deep. That protective fall zone is supposed to extend out from the equipment in every direction.
- Lack of maintenance: Hooks holding up swings can easily erode, which makes them much less thick – sometimes leading to breaking away.
- Pinch points: Many points on playgrounds can pinch, even crush, a child’s fingers. Bridges are common areas where this danger exists.
- Head entrapment: This is one of the most serious and unexpected hazards, caused by improper openings in equipment. Playground inspectors use a smaller probe to test whether a child’s torso will fit into an opening, then a larger one to test whether a child’s head will fit.
- Inadequate guard rails: Another concern is the lack of or inadequacy of guard rails.
- Entanglement hazards: the space between platforms and slides or other add-ons can lead to clothing and other items becoming tangled.
These dangers apply both to public playgrounds and home playgrounds. In fact, most injuries happen in backyard playgrounds. If you regularly take a child to a playground, make sure they understand these hazards and know to avoid them. If a playground in your neighborhood features one of these safety concerns, contact the local government to find out how to get the playground serviced. The first step to child safety is proper adult supervision – playgrounds are just one of the many areas where this is true.