With spring and summer coming on, children will be outside playing — including on playground equipment. Most experts agree that this is a very healthy activity, as children should get a minimum of one hour of physical activity daily. And while most playgrounds appear to be safe, there are dangers that parents should be aware of. In fact, a 2009 US Consumer Product Safety Commission report shows there were 2691 incidents associated with playground equipment from 2001 to 2008. Worse yet, there were 40 fatalities associated with playground equipment, including 27 that occurred by hanging or other asphyxiation. Seven deaths involve head and neck trauma.
The first thing a parent should do is to visually examine the playground. Be extremely cautious of bare or painted metal surfaces which are used on platforms and may be exposed to direct sunlight. Test any surfaces, such as slides, for heat so that a child does not sustain a burn injury. Also, all fasteners, connectors and covering devices should not be loose, exposed, or removable without the use of tools. The playground equipment should be age-appropriate, with special focus on the height of the equipment used. One of the biggest concerns is the area around the playground equipment. It should be soft and forgiving so that if a child falls or lands on the ground, there is a less likelihood of traumatic injury. Obviously, the area around the equipment should be free of glass or other sharp objects.
Enjoy the spring and summer, but let’s be cautious when it comes to playground equipment and do not presume it has met all safety requirements.