A five-year study on playground equipment by the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was recently released with alarming data on playground accidents, as well as safety guidelines.
As summer nears, parents are surely gearing up for long days at the local playground. Who doesn't have memories of visiting the playground as a child, finally mastering the monkey bars, epic games of hide-and-seek or make belief, jumping off the swings and racing down the slides? Playgrounds foster children's creativity, engage them to be more physically active and allow them to socialize with peers in unstructured playtime. While playgrounds have many positive features, they can also be extremely dangerous for children.
Approximately 200,000 children are sent to the emergency room each year with injuries sustained at playgrounds across the U.S., according to the CPSC study, which ran from 2009-2014. Most of the children were between the ages of 5-9, and the majority of the injuries happened at the monkey bars, swings, and slides. The most common injuries were bone fractures and contusions or abrasions, typically due to falling or a danger imposed by the equipment itself. In the five years of the study, there 34 playground-related fatalities, 19 of which were due to hanging or asphyxiation. A similar study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that over 20,000 children under the age of 14 are treated for traumatic brain injuries, stemming from playground accidents every year.
These figures are certainly a cause for concern. Along with the report, the CPSC released guidelines for playground safety, based on the findings of the study:
Always supervise kids and make sure kids use playground equipment appropriate for their age.
Never attach ropes, jump ropes, pet leashes or strings to playground equipment; children can strangle on these.
Make sure children’s clothing does not have any drawstrings as they can catch on slides and other equipment.
Make sure surfaces around playgrounds have 9-12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, pea gravel, or mats made of safety-tested rubber.
Check that protective surfacing extends at least 6 feet in all directions from play equipment. For swings, be sure surfacing extends, in back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar.Look out for tripping hazards, like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.
Don’t let kids play on slides/surfaces that are burning hot. The weather does not have to be hot in order for equipment to heat up and cause burns. If it feels hot to your hand, it may be too hot for a child’s bare skin!
While these playground safety rules are important to keep in mind and will help parents prevent some accidents this coming summer, some accidents are unavoidable no matter how many precautions are taken. Thus, it is important to bring a first aid kit to the playground that will help treat any injuries, whether a slight scrape or something more serious.
Other important items to pack for a day at the playground are sunscreen, bug spray, water and nutritious snacks. Another useful resource for playground safety information is the National Program for Playground Safety (http://www.playgroundsafety.org/) which offers guidelines for checking and maintaining a safe playground environment.