Monday, December 21, 2015

Playing It Safe: Watching Out for Playground Hazards

Why do so many children get injured at playgrounds, even though playground safety standards have greatly improved?

While playgrounds are a great deal safer than they were years ago, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 200, 000 children still end up in emergency rooms each year due to playground injuries. Whereas decades ago, playgrounds were typically constructed of metal structures from which children could fall onto concrete, now most playgrounds have softer surfaces and most playground equipment is constructed of lighter weight wood or plastic.

Nonetheless, playgrounds are not all well-constructed nor well-maintained. Parents and other caretakers should be aware of possible hazards at the sites. Particular attention should be paid to swings, slides, and overhead ladders, since nearly 80 percent of playground injuries are the result of falls.

The Importance of Proper Supervision

While childhood injuries can happen anywhere, it still pays to be conscious of possible playground hazards to better protect your child. The most important protection you can provide is proper supervision which includes making sure your child only engages in age-appropriate activities and that the play area does not become overcrowded. The presence of a seemingly aggressive or dangerous child should always be noted as well.

Be Aware of Playground Hazards

In addition to careful supervision, it is also important to be observant of the playground itself, making sure that:
• The protective surface is soft enough to protect children when they fall.
(Fall surfaces should be made of wood chips, mulch, wood fibers, sand, pea gravel, shredded tires or rubber mats and should be at least 12 inches deep.
• The surrounding area is safe — a minimum of 6 feet in all directions.
• There are no protrusions or sharp edges, such as bolts, rungs, or hooks.
• There are no head-entrapment hazards (openings between 3.5 and 9 inches)
• There are no trip hazards, like rocks or tree stumps
• There are no platforms without guardrails.
• All equipment is properly maintained

It is extremely important that old rusted bolts be replaced promptly and that no splintered surfaces exist. Standards for playgrounds are evolving and parents, as well as parks department officials, should keep well-informed. Monkey bars, for example, result in so many injuries, that many experts are now recommending that they be removed from all playgrounds.

In spite of all your best precautions and most careful supervision, childhood injuries will occur. If you believe that your child has been injured because of a playground has unsafe equipment or has been improperly maintained, you should report the matter to the local owner or to the parks department and consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in personal injury law.