Each year over 200,000 children receive emergency care for injuries that occurred on playground equipment. Approximately 15 children will die from playground related injuries. About 45% of injuries involving public equipment occurred in schools.
School boards and administrators faced with shrinking budgets and pressing academic concerns often put playground issues low on the priority list. As parents and caregivers, we are responsible for providing safe play opportunities for our children.
The National Playground Safety Institute (NPSI) has identified 12 of the leading causes of injury on playgrounds.
1. IMPROPER PROTECTIVE SURFACING
A minimum depth of 12 inches of material surrounding each piece of equipment with no possibility for water standing.
2. INADEQUATE USE ZONE
A minimum of 6-foot zone should surround each piece of equipment
3. PROTRUSION & ENTANGLEMENT HAZARDS
Bolt ends extend out more than two threads beyond the face of the nut, hardware configurations that form a hook or leave a gap or space between components and open “S” type hook.
4. ENTRAPMENT IN OPENINGS
There should be no openings on playground equipment that measures between three and one half inches and nine inches.
5. INSUFFICIENT EQUIPMENT SPACING
Equipment higher than 30 inches must have nine feet in between each structure.
6. TRIP HAZARDS
Exposed concrete footings, abrupt changes in surface elevations, containment borders, tree roots, tree stumps and rocks are all common trip hazards.
7. LACK OF SUPERVISION
8. AGE-INAPPROPRIATE ACTIVITIES
9. LACK OF MAINTENANCE
10. PINCH, CRUSH, SHEARING, AND SHARP EDGE HAZARDS
11. PLATFORMS WITH NO GUARDRAILS
12. EQUIPMENT NOT RECOMMENDED FOR PUBLIC PLAYGROUNDS
Three years ago I asked our Parent/Teacher Club (PTC) to develop a new account directed specifically for new playground equipment for our school. We have since raised just under $7,000 in a three-year period. I have done a great deal of research on playgrounds and found out that our existing playground is very hazardous and possibly life threatening.
Our monkey bars have five concrete footings sticking out above the surface at least 4 or more inches. If a child would happen to fall on this, it could cause head injury or death.
Our surfacing is pea gravel. It has not been maintained or added to since 1996. There are bare spots under the swings and monkey bars, which would not cushion a fall. The playground border is buried and it does not extend out the 6-foot fall zone requirement. It only extends three feet from the monkey bars plus a trip hazard.
The playground committee has recently sent a letter to all the school board members asking them to correct these hazards before the first day of school. We also requested that the school do regular maintenance checks during the school year. (Rake the gravel after daily use, check for open “S” hooks, weed removal ect…) I have not seen any action taken yet. We have three weeks before school starts. If nothing is done, we will have to take further action.
Please take a look at your child’s playground. Notify the owners of your concerns. Children have a right to play in a safe environment. You can access additional information and print off a report card to judge your playground from the National Program for Playground Safety website. Everyone should be aware of what could cause hazard and prevent it so that our children can run, jump, swing and slide to their heart’s content - safely.