Are Our Playgrounds Really a Safe Place for Kids to Play?
Playgrounds are an American staple. An idyllic outdoor place for our little ones to enjoy a sunny afternoon.
While every year millions of kids do enjoy traipsing around play sets, the reality is that many end up in the doctor’s office or at the hospital with injuries ranging from concussions to broken bones or worse.
Keeping our kids safe should be our top priority, but the first step in doing so is increasing awareness. Playgrounds can be completely safe, but not all are. In fact, according to the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS), the average report card rating for the 50 states was a mere C+. What’s more, when backyard play sets are not maintained appropriately or are used incorrectly, the owner can incur serious liability for injuries that result.
NPPS reports that between 2001 and 2008, more than 200,000 preschool and elementary children were taken to the Emergency Room to receive care for injuries. Sadly, forty playground injury related deaths were also reported during the same timespan. There is no reason to lose even one child to an environment that is meant to provide an opportunity to exercise and laugh and NPPS has generated some great guidelines to help improve our playground safety.
NPPS recommends the acronym S.A.F.E. as a means for improving playground safety.
Supervise: Leaving a child alone while playing on playground equipment can be one of the fastest ways to invite injury. Parents can better assess potential danger and should always be present when a child is using a playground.
Age-Appropriate: Not all playgrounds are created equal for all ages. Before your child begins play, consider the level of difficulty in traversing the various obstacles. Are the tasks and movements those that your child is capable of handling? By limiting the playgrounds you allow your kids to attend to only those that are age-appropriate, you will dramatically reduce the likelihood of injury.
Fall Surface: More than half of all playground injuries result directly from falls. An appropriate fall surface material should takes into account equipment height, durability, surface depth, and American Society for Testing & Materials standards. Recommended materials include shredded rubber, sand, pea gravel, and hardwood fiber. Avoid those playgrounds that show obvious signs of inadequate or improper fall surface material.
Equipment Maintenance: Regardless of how they are made, whether with wood, metal, or plastic, all playgrounds require some amount of maintenance. Those that are kept free of splinters, rust, cracks, structural weaknesses, and gaps in which children could become stuck are much safer for children to play on. Maintenance should be a routine endeavor. If a playground has been obviously neglected, don’t go near it!
By employing such guidelines we can not only improve state report cards, but, more importantly, we can also keep our children safe. While some of these changes could be costly, it’s important for playground owners to remember that the cost of being on the defending end of a personal injury lawsuit is considerably greater. A difference can be made and it’s a meaningful one.