I grew up climbing, swinging and sliding on playground equipment usually sitting on top of asphalt. The jungle gyms were 10 feet off the ground. Sliding boards were metal that got so hot you scorched your backside trying to slide down. Swing sets would tip over because they weren’t secured into the ground. I was lucky and only chipped a couple of teeth. Friends sustained concussions and one broke both wrists falling off the monkey bars.
Fortunately we’ve learned a few things about safety over the years. Yet according to the Center for Disease Control & Prevention over 200,000 children, 14 years and younger, are treated in emergency rooms for playground-related injuries every year. And about 45% of those injuries are severe; fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations, and amputations.
Playground equipment can be found not only at homes, schools and public parks but also at apartment complexes, country and other recreational clubs, and even restaurants. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has established guidelines to help promote greater safety awareness for the purchase, installation and maintenance of playground equipment.
10 Things You Should Know About Playground Safety
- Provide a protective surface that offers shock absorbing properties. A minimum depth of 6 inches or more is needed based on the height of your equipment and the type of loose fill material used. Asphalt, concrete, grass or dirt are not acceptable.
- Install swings at least 30 inches from a structural components and 24 inches from other swings.
- Secure equipment to prevent tip-over.
- Use rubber coated chains or slide a rubber tube over the chains to reduce cuts and broken fingers.
- Close S and C hooks tightly, and all fasteners, connectors and coverings should be smooth to remove entanglement hazards. Check monthly.
- Install short bolts or cut off protruding ends. The bolt should extend only 2 threads from the nut. Be sure to remove sharp edges. Check monthly.
- Use corrosion resistant hardware and locking washers, self-locking nuts or other lockable devices to protect them from detachment.
- Openings should be less than 3 ½ inches or greater than 9 inches to reduce head entrapment hazards.
- Routinely inspect and tighten loose hardware; sand splintering wood; replace rusty and deteriorating components; look for and remove sharp objects and debris in the loose fill.
- Consider sending a newsletter or email to customers, clients, or members, write a safety message reminding them that children should not wear drawstrings, hoodies or other loose clothing that can become caught or entangled while playing on equipment.
How are you keeping your playground safe? Let us know.
The CPSC has some great information on Playground Equipment Safety. You can also do a search with the keywords “playground equipment” and find a wealth of additional information.
Visit the National Public Park Safety website to find checklists, toolkits, and “report cards” on your local parks.
This post was written by Wendy Sheeler, a Senior Risk Control Representative, who works in our Lancaster, Pennsylvania office and is a member of the Lancaster County Industrial Safety Council.