Problem Solver - August 2007
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Ensuring Playground Safety

We're planning a new playground for our facility, and we're concerned about safety issues.

Swings, slides and climbing structures are all part of your typical playground, and they're all part of having fun. But amid the squeals of laughter and racing around, accidents do happen. In fact, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year more than 200,000 children experience injuries on playgrounds that are serious enough to require emergency medical care.

Preventing accidents from happening in the first place is a lot better than seeing an injured child, and one of the best ways to avoid accidents is to provide effective adult supervision. That's why leading playground equipment manufacturers provide their customers with copies of the SAFE Playground Supervision Kit put out by the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS). It includes a training manual, DVD and a supervision fanny pack.

Other important factors in preventing accidents include appropriate surfacing. If you're using loose-fill surfacing such as pea gravel, mulch, sand or wood chips, it should be at least 12 inches deep. A variety of rubber poured-in-place and tile surfaces are also available. To know you're covering all the bases, consult with a certified playground installer or playground manufacturer to ensure all safety guidelines, including the exact depth of surfacing materials, are followed.

In addition, adults need to watch for things like ropes and cords that might be attached to the equipment and present a strangulation danger; broken parts, rust, protruding hardware and other disrepair (bring it to the attention of the person in charge); debris and litter that could cause tripping hazards or other health concerns; and children who may be playing on equipment that isn't appropriate for their age. It's also wise to include signage that informs parents and supervisors which structures are meant for which age group.

While it's impossible to prevent every injury, knowledge and planning will help make the experience exactly what it should be: fun.

BCI Burke Company: