Feature Article - March 2011
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Play It Safe

Improving Safety for Your Play Spaces

By Kelli Anderson

Taming the Playground Bully

The playground bully is apparently alive and well, according to varying reports on playground safety. The good news, however, is that some of our nation's worst offenders—safety oversights—can be reformed and even eradicated.

London Bridges Falling Down: 79 percent of injuries are caused by falls. Proper installation of surfaces and attention to their maintenance can make a big difference in trips to the ER: bark mulch, wood fibers, sand, pea gravel, shredded tires, rubber mats or tiles, and poured-in-pace surfaces are some of the most popular surfaces/ Be careful to ensure proper depths, proper refills and proper inspections to keep surfaces performing at their best.

Note: A recent study found that more than 80 percent of severe fall injuries were on "safe" surfaces that were only 1 inch deep (far below the recommended levels.)

Chutes 'n' Ladders: 40 percent of falls (resulting in broken bones, concussions or worse) come from ladders and climbing equipment. The National Safety Council recommends keeping children under 4 years of age from these features.

Mother May I: Always provide, or in the case of public parks, insist on adult supervision. Make sure play areas can be clearly monitored by caregivers.

Space Invaders: Space between bars or openings in playground equipment should not be between 3.5 and 9 inches, especially at the tops of slides, between platforms, between climbing rungs or between railings. Equipment should also be spaced far enough apart that fall zones do not overlap.

End Zone: Most stationary equipment should have a fall zone of at least 6 feet in all directions.

I Spy: Keeping up appearances (maintaining equipment and surfaces), involving regular checks for broken or missing components, and signs of material fatigue or deterioration, is vital to maintaining a safe environment.

Rock Paper Scissors: Regularly inspect equipment for sharp edges, extended bolts, moving parts that could crush fingers, and rocks or holes that may be tripping hazards.