Playgrounds offer kids the opportunity to build physical, social, and cognitive skills in an outdoor setting. But playgrounds are also the most common place for injuries in early childhood. Parents, teachers, and babysitters should inspect playgrounds regularly and report any problems. In addition, age-appropriate equipment is essential. This includes a separate area for toddlers and young children, as well as proper safety surfacing.
Playground equipment can challenge children both physically and emotionally. But, a balance must be struck between safety and developmentally appropriate risk taking. Kids need to be able to run, climb, swing and glide, but they also need to know when it’s time to stop. Parents and teachers should monitor their children while on playgrounds and provide proper supervision as recommended by the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Public Playground Safety Handbook.
Most playground injuries occur from falling off equipment. To reduce the risk, areas under and around equipment should be covered with soft materials such as shredded rubber, wood mulch, sand or pea gravel. Avoid hard surfaces, such as concrete, asphalt and blacktop, since they provide the least cushion for children if they fall. Also, make sure spaces that could trap children, like openings in guardrails and between ladder rungs, are less than 3.5 inches. Avoid tripping hazards, such as exposed concrete footings, tree stumps and rocks.
The National Parks and Recreation Association (NRPA) Certified 안전놀이터 Inspector (CPSI) program provides individuals with the opportunity to receive comprehensive training on current playground safety standards. This two day course teaches participants how to recognize and prevent potential playground hazards. It also addresses age appropriate issues, site planning concerns, surfacing requirements, and inspection and maintenance plans. Students taking the CPSI course learn how to identify and rank playground equipment and surfacing hazards by injury potential, then apply this knowledge in establishing a risk reduction program. This includes an inspection and maintenance program based on managing risk, and a system for repair, replacement and removal of unsafe equipment.
Miracle Recreation is proud to work with manufacturers who are members in good standing of IPEMA, an industry trade organization that offers a third party product certification service for playground equipment and surfacing. This service provides qualifying manufacturers with a logo to use on their products that indicates they have been tested and validated by an independent laboratory to meet or exceed the European Standard EN 1176: 2017. Check out the IPEMA website for more information.
No matter how many precautions playground workers take, kids will still fall from equipment. That’s why it is important to protect the ground with a material that can cushion a fall and keep a minor injury from becoming more severe. The best materials for safe playgrounds are unitary surfaces such as poured-in-place rubber or bonded wood fiber. These are easy to maintain, offer high-level safety and blend into any outdoor environment.
Other loose-fill surfacing options include wood mulch, sand or pea gravel. These products have the added benefit of being inexpensive. However, they are subject to displacement over time and may require frequent raking to maintain the appropriate depth of surfacing around equipment. Engineered wood fiber, or EWF, is an advanced and universally superior option to traditional loose coverings. It is manufactured from natural resources, but undergoes a rigorous process that creates a clean and safe surface. It also resists erosion and is a better shock absorber than most other loose materials.
Depending on the age range of children for whom the playground is intended it may be necessary to include different safety standards and equipment. For instance, monkey bars or slides that are higher than 30 inches above ground should be built with a protective barrier to keep kids from falling off.
Another important factor is that the playground must have supervision at all times. This doesn’t mean a handful of parents or teachers chatting among themselves but rather someone who can see all the children playing and can intercede immediately if an accident occurs. View-friendly tensile mesh safety netting is common in modern playgrounds and helps to ensure that all the kids can be seen at all times. This is crucial to discourage bad behavior and to make sure that the kids aren’t hiding in a blind spot where they could be kidnapped or abused by a stranger. Also, children with disabilities or who need extra help playing need to be able to find areas where they can play safely too.
Playgrounds provide children with fresh air, friends and fun. But injuries can occur from equipment that is inappropriate for a child’s age or from unsafe surfaces. Good protective surfacing is key and should include impact-absorbing surfaces like sand, wood chips or shredded rubber. Avoid hard surfaces such as asphalt and concrete.