Feature Article - July 2007
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Pump Up the Fun

What’s new on the playground?

By Stacy St. Clair

Play It Safe

Nothing slows a child's improving fitness faster than a twisted ankle or a head injury. Each year, more than 200,000 children are hurt on the playground. Making sure your facility meets current safety standards is one way to help reduce injuries.

We offer 10 tips—courtesy of the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA)—for keeping your playgrounds as safe as possible:

1. Check the surface. Falls are the number one cause of injury on the playground. A child who falls on a hard surface such as concrete or even grass can be seriously injured or, worse, killed. Make sure to use the proper, recommended material underneath and around your playground equipment.
2. Make sure there is enough space underneath and around your playground equipment. For swings, the safe-use zone is twice the height of the swing hanger both in front of and behind the swing and six feet on either side of the swing support. The safe-use zone for slides depends on the height of the slide. In general, the safe-use zone equals the height of the slide plus an additional four feet. Bars and similar equipment should have six feet of clear space in every direction.
3. Embrace diversity. Your playground should have equipment for both pre-school and school-age children. Injury—and apparatus damage—occurs when kids play on equipment too old or young for them.
4. Prevent impaling. Thoroughly inspect your equipment for any jutting pieces of hardware that could cause injury.
5. Eliminate strangulation risks. Make sure there's nothing on the playground that would snag pieces of clothing, jewelry or strings.
6.Space it out. Industry standards recommend 12 feet between equipment, with no overlap of safe-use zones.
7. No pinching. Make sure there are no moving parts that could pinch a child's finger.
8. Don't trip. Surfaces should be smooth and level, with no tree stumps and roots.
9. Keep it up. Your equipment needs to be well-maintained. All hardware and the playground surface should be in good shape. Rust and other signs of deterioration may signal poor maintenance.
10. Out with the old. If your playground hasn't been renovated since 1993, you might want to consider an upgrade. Outdated playground equipment can be extremely dangerous. For example, during the '60s, '70s and '80s, heavy metal animal swings were commonplace on playgrounds. Today, however, we know these pieces can be lethal battering rams to the children who walk in front of them.