According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 20,000 children suffer trauma to the head due to playground accidents. Between 2001 and 2008, over 218,000 children were involved in playground accidents that ended in injury. While there have been significant advances in the materials used and manufacturing used to make playground equipment safer, children are continuing to be harmed at an alarming rate. Educating yourself on the most common risks and how to reduce your child’s risk of harm will go a long way toward keeping him or her out of the hospital.
Falls are a Significant Factor in Playground Accidents
An overwhelming 80% of playground injuries are the result of a trip or fall off of equipment such as swings, ladders and climbers. While modern parks are installing better landing surfaces to reduce the force of impact, some parks still lack these materials or are home to poorly maintained or designed equipment that could cause children harm.
Roughly 60% of playground accidents happen on public property, but there are a significant number occurring from the use of home playground equipment. Nearly 20% of the accidents reported over the last decade occurred at home.
Other Hazards to Be Mindful Of
In order to best protect children, the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission released a list of playground hazards to look for when taking your children to the park and how best to minimize the risk of an incident. These hazards include the following.
- Unsafe surface materials. It is not standard procedure for parks to be built with at least a foot of wood chips, wood pulp, rubber mats, sand or other materials that can absorb the force of a fall. Avoid letting your child play on a playground without this safety feature.
- Excessive number of children. If a playground is overly crowded, there is a significantly higher risk of an accident, as many incidents occur when children make contact with each other accidentally.
- Trip or fall hazards. Examples include tree stumps, poorly placed rocks, equipment with protruding parts or slick surfaces.
- Lack of supervision. Young children should not be allowed to play without direct parental supervision.
- Platforms without guardrails. Any elevated surface should be designed with guard rails to prevent accidental falls.
- Broken or defective equipment. Over time, equipment may experience wear and tear, resulting in sharp edges or poor structural integrity. Make sure that the equipment your child is using is well maintained and free of sharp edges, exposed hooks and bolts or rungs that can cause injury to children.
- Monkey bars and other prohibited equipment. Some equipment is responsible for more incidents than others. Monkey bars are one of the most dangerous pieces of equipment, for example, and it has been suggested they be removed from existing parks and not included in the design of future playgrounds.
If you have any reason to believe that a playground is not safe, make sure that you contact the park district or the owner of the park. Raising concerns about park safety is the most effective way to alert those in a position to effect change.
If your child uses playground equipment at home, it is important that you maintain the same standards. Make sure that you maintain the equipment and inspect it regularly for signs of wear. Finding and repairing broken equipment before allowing your children to use it is far more effective than addressing the problem after an accident.
The most important step you can take to protect your child is to be present and provide parental supervision. This will both help prevent injuries while ensuring that someone is there to respond in the event of an emergency. For more information on playground safety, you can refer to the following resources.