The squeals and shouts of our rambunctious, healthy kids enjoying their outdoor fun in the yard are reassuring and comforting for parents to hear – as long as those shouts don’t become screams of pain or an accident. The backyard is supposed to be a fun place for outdoor play and exercise, not a danger zone. Young children need the physical benefits of exercise, motor skills development, and fresh air, not to mention a place to work off their boundless energy.
Unfortunately, each year families of about 200,000 children confront injuries associated with unsafe playground areas and equipment, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. An estimated 51,000 involve home playground equipment, the rest occur at public playgrounds. Most of the injuries are the result of falls. Tragically, about 15 children die each year, most because of strangulation.
You Can Keep Your Kids Safe
Fortunately, these tragedies are preventable. Combined with careful adult supervision, proper playground construction and maintenance can greatly minimize the risk of injury to young children.
Practice Playground Safety at Home, at School, and at the Park
This quick-course has been written to help alert you to the danger signs in play areas. You can take control at home by taking precautions with your own play area. And you can take a new look at other playgrounds for the same hazards. These include lack of proper surfacing to cushion falls, lack of guardrails to prevent falls, head entrapment hazards, and other injury-causing hazards.
Cushion Falls With Protective Surfacing
Since almost 60% of all injuries are caused by falls to the ground, protective surfacing under and around all playground equipment is critical to reduce the risk of serious head injury. And because head impact injuries from a fall can be life threatening, the more shock absorbing a surface can be made, the less likely any injury will be severe.
Of course, all injuries due to falls cannot be prevented no matter what playground surfacing material is used.
What to Avoid
Do NOT Use Concrete or Asphalt. Falls on asphalt and concrete can result in serious head injury and death. Do not place playground equipment over these surfaces.
Avoid Grass and Dirt. Grass and turf also lose their ability to absorb shock through wear and environmental conditions. Avoid earth surfaces such as soils and hard packed dirt. Always use protective surfacing.
What Should You Use?
Loose-fill surfacing materials. These include double shredded bark mulch, shredded tires, wood chips, fine sand or fine gravel. The greater the depth, the greater the shock-absorption. Loose-fill materials should not be installed over hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete.
Manufactured synthetic surfaces. These include rubber or rubber 안전놀이터 over foam mats or tiles, poured-in-place urethane and rubber compositions. The initial cost is higher but less maintenance is required. Be sure to ask the manufacturer for test data on shock absorption. Some materials require installation over a hard surface while others do not.
How Much Should You Use?
If using loose-fill material at home, maintain a constant depth of at least 6 inches of material. 9 or 12 inches is recommended. The cushioning benefits of fine sand and gravel increase at 12 inches, according to the CPSC.
What’s the Buffer Zone?
Create a buffer zone, covered with a protective surfacing material, under and around all equipment where a child might fall. The protective surfacing material should extend a minimum of 6 feet in all directions from the perimeter of the equipment. To prevent further injury from a fall, this area must be free of other equipment and obstacles that might strike a child.