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Safety on playgrounds

April 11, 2012
The Daily News

Accidents can happen anywhere

Children need lots of time to play, but at the same time, parents need to be concernd about their safety, especially when their play takes them outside the home.

Warmer weather has arrived, and children are spending more time outdoors.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 200,000 children are treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms annually for playground injuries.

In many cases, playground-related injuries can be prevented.

Most injuries occur when a child falls onto the playground surface, reports the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Often they are hurt not only by the fall, but by being struck by the equipment - such as steps, poles or swings - as they fall.

On average, 15 children die each year as a result of playground equipment-related incidents.

Nearly 70 percent of these deaths occurred on home playgrounds, reports Safe Kids USA.

What makes for a safe play area?

Besides certain safety standards, there are many things parents can do to help ensure their children's safety.

- Children should be supervised at all times. Duh. This is a real no brainer. When playing, children often test the limits of the equipment and themselves. Kids need adult supervision.

- Playgrounds should suit the child. Because children pass through different development stages, playgrounds should match these life stages.

- The play equipment should provide many possibilities for play. Boredom is a principal contributor to playground accidents. Problems resulting from boredom can be prevented by having a variety of equipment arranged in a way to maximize play possibilities.

- The playground must be maintained. Any faulty equipment must be repaired immediately and broken equipment removed.

When examining your neighborhood playground, check for:

- Exposed equipment footings.

- Scattered debris, litter, rocks, or tree roots.

- Rust and chipped paint on metal components.

- Splinters, large cracks, and decayed wood components.

- Deterioration and corrosion on structural components which connect to the ground.

- Missing or damaged equipment components, such as handholds, guardrails, swing seats.

Studies show that most of the injuries are the result of falls, and most of the deaths are due to strangulations.

Since almost 60 percent of all injuries are caused by falls, protective surfacing under and around all playground equipment can reduce the risk of serious head injury.

- Make sure surfaces around playground equipment have at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, or pea gravel, or mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials.

- Check that protective surfacing extends at least 6 feet in all directions from play equipment.

- Make sure elevated surfaces, like platforms and ramps more than 30 inches above the ground, have guardrails to prevent falls.

To prevent injuries from impact with moving swings, swings should not be too close together or too close to support structures. In addition, swing sets should be securely anchored.

Avoid potential head entrapment hazards. Openings that are between 3-feet 1/2-inch and 9-inches present a head entrapment hazard because they are large enough to permit a child's body to go through, but are too small to permit the head to go through. When children enter such openings, feet first, they may become entrapped by the head and strangle. Additionally, make sure openings in guardrails and between ladder rungs measure less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches.

Avoid potential strangulation hazards. Open "S" hooks, especially on swings, and other protrusions may act as hooks or catch-points and entangle children's clothing and cause strangulation.

Close "S" hooks as tightly as possible and eliminate protrusions or catch-points on the equipment.

Finally, check for exposed moving parts which may present a pinching or crushing hazard.



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