Kids love to play on playgrounds. Therefore, playground equipment should be fun and safe, whether is it the small swing sets found in backyards or large elaborate jungle gyms built in parks and schoolyards. In the US, more than 200,000 children visit the emergency room every year with playground-related injuries. Many of those injuries are caused by children being careless and unrealistic about their own abilities. However, many other accidents are caused by playground equipment that has been incorrectly designed or installed, some playground equipment has just not been properly maintained over the years.
How to Help Children Play Safely
It is common to see parents of very young children holding their hands and playing with them to ensure their safety. Generally, playground equipment is not appropriate for very young toddlers to be playing on, unless it has been designed specifically for tiny tots. Most playground equipment is designed and built for older children, but with proper supervision, very young children can climb around and be safe, even if they are unable to do most of the activities. Every playground has swings, and some have tot swings that are designed for tiny kids, even if the rest of the playground jungle gym isn’t suitable for them.
When kids get a bit older, parents seem to be less protective and more willing to let the kids climb around at-will and make friends. This is a very important and healthy part of growing up. Nevertheless, parents need to teach their children how to respect the equipment and play safely. Statistically, it is children ages five through nine that suffer the most playground injuries and according to the Center for Disease, girls (55 percent) are more likely to be injured than boys (45 percent) are. It is also important to note that 75 percent of all playground equipment injuries occur at public playgrounds, such as parks.
Some playground equipment is more likely to cause an injury than other playground equipment. In backyard swing sets, the swings are the most likely to cause injury. If the swing sets are not properly anchored into the ground, it can result in the swing set tipping over when the swings are used by older children who weigh more. Additionally, some swing sets are not installed at the proper distance from the ground and children’s legs can be caught under them. The chains breaking on swings are also very common.
In public playgrounds, most injuries occur from climbing on the equipment. The child either slips or falls off the walkways or slides. However, equipment failure is also a common problem. The guardrails, designed to keep children from falling to the ground, can fail causing injury. In addition, bolts and screws can work loose due to lack of maintenance and improper inspections. Several studies have found that public playground equipment in low-income neighborhoods has had less maintenance than equipment found in high-income areas. Common problems are issues like rusty equipment that can fail structurally, and damaged surface areas where guardrails or protective barriers have failed, allowing falls to occur. Sixty seven percent of all playground injuries are caused by falls or equipment failure. (Center for Disease Control).
According to the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) there have been deaths caused by playground equipment to children between the ages of 4 and 6. The most common cause of death was due to hangings or asphyxiations caused by the equipment, followed by head and neck injuries from falling.
Parental oversight can go a long way in keeping children safe on playgrounds. If there is a swing set in the backyard, adults should take the time to inspect it. It is very difficult for the average parent to tell if the chain is weakened by use, but the chains should be replaced regularly just to make sure they are reliable. New chains can be purchased at any hardware store. Make sure there is no rust on the structure of the swing set. Check and tighten every screw and bolt to make sure there are none missing and that they are secure. Parents do not need to be structural engineers to inspect and make basic repairs to a simple swing set, and a few minutes of time could keep children injury free.
Parents also have a responsibility for inspecting public playground equipment and the area around the playground, before they turn the kids loose. Parents, guardians, and babysitters can look for observable problems with the equipment. The National Playground Safety Institute has a list of playground hazards they call the “Dirty Dozen”:
1. Improper Protective Surfacing
2. Inadequate Use Zone
3. Protrusion and Entanglement Hazards
4. Entrapment in Openings
5. Insufficient Equipment Spacing
6. Trip Hazards
7. Lack of Supervision
8. Age-Inappropriate Activities
9. Lack of Maintenance
10. Crush, Shearing and Sharp Edge Hazards
11. Platforms with No Guardrails
12. Equipment Not Recommended for Public Playgrounds
After inspecting the playground, parents can make an informed decision to allow the children to play or to take them to another park and look for potential hazard there, as well. If small problems are found on the public playground equipment, tell the children to be careful in that spot. Let them know that an uncovered bolt thread could cut them or snag their clothes.
It is also necessary to report any damage or dangerous equipment to the park system, so they can repair it. They may not beware of any damage that has happened since they last inspected the equipment. Public playgrounds can be vandalized, and the city or county that is responsible for overseeing the park may not be aware of the damage.
Taking action to keep a public playground safe helps to protect all the children in the area. Do not be afraid to report any damage to the playground equipment and the area around it. Then make sure the defective equipment is repaired by following up with the local authorities who are responsible for maintaining safe conditions in neighborhood parks.
If your child has suffered a personal injury, call the professionals at W.T. Johnson today.