According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), emergency departments in the U. S. treat over 200,000 children ages fourteen and under for playground-related injuries.
About 45% of these injuries were severe fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations, and amputations. Between 1990 and 2000, 147 children ages 14 and under died from these injuries. Most of the deaths occurred on home playgrounds.
About 75% of nonfatal injuries occur on public playgrounds such as at schools and daycare centers. Girls get injured slightly more often than boys and children ages 5-9 have higher rates of emergency department visits than any other age group.
On public playgrounds, climbers had the most injuries. On home playgrounds, swings caused the majority of injuries.
More than 20,000 children ages 14 and under are treated for traumatic brain injury (TBI) from playgrounds each year. Of these traumatic brain injuries, boys get more than girls. Most TBIs treated for playground-related injuries are for kids age five to nine years of age.
Four year olds and younger most often get traumatic brain injuries on swings and slides. Five to fourteen-year-olds on swings, monkey bars, and climbing equipment.
What Can Be Done for Better Playground Safety
Falls are the leading cause of non-fatal injuries for children ages 0-19. U. S. emergency rooms treat about 8,000 children a day for fall related injuries. Many of these falls occur on playgrounds.
Here’s what to check for in playground safety:
- Surfaces under playground equipment should be safe, soft, and made of wood chips, sand, or mulch. Dirt or grass is not safe. The surfaces should also be an appropriate depth to absorb falls.
- Read playground signs to be sure the playground equipment is right for your child’s age.
- Make sure guardrails are in good condition to help prevent falls.
- Survey the area looking for tree stumps or rocks that can trip up your child.
- Supervision is key. There should always be an adult with the kids at the playground.
Guidelines for Schools, Parks, and Other Playground Locations
The California Parks and Recreation Service refers website visitors to the U. S. Consumer Products Safety Commission’s (CPSC) “Public Playground Safety Handbook” for safety guidelines. The handbook is intended for use by “school officials, parks and recreational personnel, equipment purchasers and installers, playground designers, and anyone else such as school groups interested in evaluating their playgrounds.”
According to the Handbook, consideration should be given to not only the safety of the playground equipment, but also the layout and the protective surfacing under and around the equipment.
The Potential Hazards of Playgrounds
The recommendations for safety address the typical hazards that children face that can result in injury or even in some cases, death.
Some of those hazards are:
- The potential for falls from and impact with equipment.
- The need to lessen the impact of falls with protective surfacing under and around equipment.
- Openings with the potential for head entrapment.
- Poor design features and scale of equipment related to user age and layout of the equipment on the playground.
- Improper installation and maintenance.
- Hazards presented by protrusions, sharp edges, and crush or shear points.
When choosing a site for a playground consideration should be given to travel patterns of children, nearby hazards such as roads with traffic, bodies of water, and drop offs and cliffs. Also, too much sun exposure can be bad for children and make the equipment hot. Slope and drainage is also an issue regarding the washing away of the safety material under the equipment.
The layout of the playground should accommodate different age groups if it is intended for children of all ages. Clear separation for kids too young to be on certain equipment is important. Also, different activities should be in different sections of the playground so they don’t interfere with each other.
It is also a good idea to create clear signage so supervisors and children know which equipment is appropriate for them.
According to the Guidelines, the surfacing on the ground under the equipment is one of the most important elements in reducing serious head injuries. There are test methods available for evaluating the shock absorbing properties of the surfacing material.
The test methods are described in the “ASTM F1292 Standard Specifications for Impact Attenuation of Surface Systems Under and Around Playground Equipment.” Manufacturers of the equipment should provide playgrounds with these ratings.
Appropriate surfacing is any material tested to ASTM F1292 including unitary surfaces, engineered wood fiber, etc. Also pea gravel, sand, shredded/recycled rubber mulch, wood mulch (not CCA-treated), or wood chips.
Inappropriate surfacing can be asphalt, carpet not tested to ASTM F1292, concrete, dirt, grass, or CCA treated wood mulch.
Playground Equipment Not Recommended
There is some playground equipment that the CPSC does not recommend, including:
- Swinging gates
- Giant strides
- Climbing ropes not secured at both ends.
- Heavy metal swings as with animal figures.
- Swings intended for more than one user at a time.
- Rope swings that are free swinging.
- Swinging dual exercise rings and trapeze bars on long chains, considered athletic equipment inappropriate for playgrounds.
As you can see, there’s a lot that can go wrong at your child’s playground with the design, equipment, and surface material.
Note: During our research, we noticed some differences in the statistics from various sources. And much of the research is aged. This might mean that more current research would be useful to make our playgrounds safer.
What You Should Do If Your Child Is Injured at the Playground
Playgrounds promote good health with exercise and socialization as kids learn to get along with each other. And they are lots of fun. But as you can see, there are hazards that the people in charge of them need to eliminate.
Case Burnett Law specializes in Child Injury Law. If your child is injured, call us for a consultation. We can help you get the compensation your child deserves including medical bills, physical therapy, and pain and suffering.
Also, since playground owners are responsible for our children’s safety, they should be held to a higher standard. So if your lawsuit helps playgrounds become safer, you have done your community a service.
If you have questions or your child is injured at the playground, give us a call at 949.861.2990 or request a free, no obligation consultation here.