Play It Safe On Playground

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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Each year, approximately 15 children die from injuries involving playground equipment, and more than 200,000 are treated in emergency rooms. Falls account for 80 percent of playground injuries; however, most playground fatalities are caused by strangulation which tend to occur in a family’s yard, not on public property.

“Nothing can take the place of active supervision, but we do need to make sure our kids are playing in safe environments in the first place,” says Jan Stegelman, Safe Kids Kansas coordinator. “Playground equipment should be labeled with a minimum age, and it should be surrounded by a protective surface.” This year marks the 27th anniversary of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Handbook for Public Playground Safety , which provides guidelines for protective surfacing and age-appropriate playground equipment for children.

Grass and soil are not good playground surfaces. “The ground should be covered 12 inches deep with shredded rubber, hardwood fiber mulch, pea gravel, or fine sand, extending at least six feet in all directions around the equipment,” says Stegelman. “It won’t prevent falls, but it can prevent injuries or reduce their severity.”

Even nonfatal injuries from playground falls can be very serious. “A child who falls about 5 feet is four times as likely to be injured as a child who falls from a lower height. Also, a child who falls onto a hard surface such as asphalt or concrete is more than twice as likely of suffering an injury than a child falling onto an impact-absorbing surface,” says Stegelman .

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Parents and caregivers need to keep kids in sight and in reach on the playground. “Simply being in the same place as your child isn’t necessarily supervising,” says Stegelman. “Kids on a playground need your undivided attention.”

Safe Kids Kansas also reminds parents and caregivers to:

* Make sure playground equipment is inspected frequently and kept in good repair.

* Remove hood and neck drawstrings from children’s clothing and outerwear and do not allow kids to wear helmets, necklaces, purses or scarves on the playground.

* Don’t allow your kids to engage in, or play near, any pushing, shoving or crowding around playground equipment.

* Keep toddlers under age 5 in a separate play area, fenced off from equipment designed for bigger kids.

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