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Is Your Local Playground Safe?

Every parent has their favorite playground and although it may be packed chock-full of kids on any given day, there are certain risks that could be looming. Take action as a conscious parent and go over your playground safety “report card.” Check the following risk factor criteria next time you’re at your local playground. This will ensure fun and safe play for not only your kids, but everyone using this public area.

Risk factor criteria – something every parent should be aware of:
1) Supervision

  • Adult supervision must be present since approx. 40% of injuries occur from lack of supervision.
  • Proper supervision means no blind spots where children can hide out-of-sight.
  • Crawl spaces, tunnels and boxed areas should have plexiglass or transparent material.
  • Posting playground rules is recommended. Ages 2-5 should have no more than 3 rules. Kids over 5 will remember 5 rules. Rules should be general, like “Respect others,” or “Take turns.”

2) Age-Appropriate Design

  • Playgrounds should have separate areas with appropriately-sized equipment for ages 2-5 and 5-12. Intended user group should be obvious (typically using a buffer like benches or shrubs). If playground serves all ages, pathways and layout should clearly designate areas for age groups.
  • Signs posted should give guidance to adults for age-appropriateness of play equipment.
  • Platforms over 6-feet high should have an intermediate standing surface.
  • Guardrails or barriers should be used to prevent falls off elevated platforms. These should also prevent intentional attempts by children to climb over the barrier.
  • Children use equipment in ways not intended when designed. High tube slides, for example, can put children at risk since they can easily climb outside the piece. (Was the piece designed to minimize risk from injury from a fall or not?)
  • Some swings have support structures like bars and long poles that children can possibly climb to the top of the structure by. Many times these structures have no safe surfacing underneath. Dangerous heights and hard surfaces NEVER mix.

3) Fall Surfacing

  • Appropriate surfaces are loose fill (sand, pea gravel, shredded tires, wood chips/mulch) or unitary surfaces (rubber tiles/mats and poured rubber). Asphalt, concrete, dirt and grass are NOT appropriate.
  • Falls from 1-foot high onto concrete can cause concussion and falls from 8-feet onto dirt is the same as a child hitting a brick wall at 30 mph
  • Appropriate surfacing should be located directly underneath equipment and extend 6-feet in all directions. Slides and swings have an even longer zone.
  • Loose fill should have appropriate depth to cushion falls – 12 in. recommended.
  • No concrete footings should be seen around any equipment. Deaths and permanent disabilities have occurred from this.

4) Equipment Maintenance

  • Broken equipment pieces are never okay. Means should be taken to fix it.
  • Missing parts are a huge hazard and cause unnecessary injury hazards.
  • Protruding bolts and fixtures can cause problems by catching clothing or kids running into them.
  • Strangulation is the leading cause of playground fatalities. Drawstrings on sweatshirts and clothing get caught in gaps in the equipment. The area on top of slides is potentially troublesome.
  • Entrapment places are guardrails and underneath merry-go-rounds. Head entrapment is especially dangerous because young children’s heads and bigger than their bodies.
  • Exposed metal rusts and this also weakens the equipment parts.
  • Wood structures must be treated regularly to avoid weather problems like splinters.
  • Plastic equipment can crack and develop holes from temperature and vandalism.

Is Your playground an A, B, C or D?

Safety Report Card – Health & Human Services/NCCIC

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Speaking of Marriage

Winifred M. Reilly, M.A., MFT

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