Playgrounds May Be Dangerous to Children According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) some 200,000 children receive treatment in hospital emergency rooms nationwide each year for playground related injuries. Worse, approximately 15 children die as a result of playground injuries yearly. Typically, injuries result from falls and deaths are usually the result of strangulation, the CPSC reports.
Many of the parks and playgrounds in New York City present hazards for the children that play at these playgrounds year-round. In fact, research conducted in New York City found that playgrounds with zip codes in lower income areas experience increased rates of maintenance-related hazards when compared to playgrounds located in areas where the residents had higher incomes. Some of the dangers that were present involved rusty play equipment, damaged fall surfaces, and a great deal of trash. Public playgrounds do have applicable industry standards; however, no federal regulations exist for playgrounds, according to The Morning Journal.
Some 45 percent of playground injuries are considered to be severe, such as:
- Broken bones
- Internal injuries
Approximately 75 percent of all nonfatal injuries associated with playground equipment occur on public playgrounds that are located at daycare centers and schools. In just one decade, 147 children under the age of 15 died from playground equipment injuries. About half-56 percent-some 82 children died due to strangulation. Another 20 percent or 31 children died in falls. The significant cost tied to these types of injuries in one year for children’s playground-related injuries for children under the age of 15 cost about $1.2 billion, notes The Morning Journal.
The personal injury attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP have years of experience representing clients in accident lawsuits. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a lawsuit.
What to Look for in a Playground
MorningJournal.com notes that the traditional, so-called “old-school” playgrounds that were outfitted with blacktops and metal equipment may no longer be used in most neighborhoods today; however, there are a good number of hazards to look out for when selecting equipment for homes or to be aware of elsewhere to ensure safe play.
The CPSC complied a safety list for parents to follow for their children playing on playgrounds:
- Always use protective surfacing comprised of loose-fill materials such as wood chips, mulch, wood fibers, fine sand, double-shredded bark mulch, shredded tires, rubber mats or fine pea gravel. These should be at a depth of 12 inches. Never place playground equipment over asphalt or concrete; grass and turf are not recommended as they lose their ability to absorb shock with wear and environmental conditions. While some manufactured synthetic surfaces are acceptable, test data on shock-absorbing performance should be requested from the manufacturer. Equipment and protective surfacing should be routinely inspected, especially the mulch to ensure a proper depth.
- Avoid inadequate use zones. The area under and around play equipment where a child might fall should be a minimum of six feet in all directions with protective surface material under and around equipment. Stationary climbing equipment and slides should also have a use zone that extends for a minimum of six feet in all directions from the perimeter of the equipment.
- Overcrowded play areas should be avoided. Swings should be set far enough away from other equipment so that children are not in danger of a moving swing. At least eight inches should be between suspended swings and between a swing and the support frame; swings should be a minimum of eight inches off the ground and swing-sets should be securely anchored.
- Platforms that are in excess of 30 inches above the ground should have guardrails to prevent falls.
- Openings that are closed should be less than three ½ inches, or more than nine inches to avoid head entrapment.
- “S” hooks should be closed as tightly as possible; eliminate protrusions or catch-points on playground equipment and ensure there are no exposed moving parts that may present a pinching or crushing hazard.
- Protrusion hazards should be removed and include hardware capable of impaling or cutting a child (bolts, hooks, rungs, etc.), or catching strings or items of clothing. Children should never wear drawstring hoodies at the playground and ropes and items with cords that might get placed around the neck and get caught on playground equipment should be removed.
- Children should be taught about safe play. Examples include teaching children to not walk or play close to a moving swing and teaching children not to tie ropes to playground equipment. Children under the age of four should not play on climbing equipment or horizontal ladders.
- Trip hazards, such as rocks or tree stumps should be removed.
- Play should be age inappropriate. Spring-loaded seesaws are best for younger children. Adjustable seesaws with chains should be avoided as children may crush their hands under the chains. A traditional seesaw should not hit the ground. “Whirls” or “roundabouts” are best for school-age children.
- Metal or wooden swing seats should be replaced with soft seats; equipment should not be split or splintered, there should be no sharp edges on equipment.
- Monkey bars are not recommended for public playgrounds. The number of injuries due to monkey bars is so significant many experts agree that they be removed from all playgrounds.
MorningJournal notes that thermal burns present serious dangers, even on equipment that is made of nonmetal surfaces and burns and injuries may occur when a parent holds a child on their laps on a slide. A study found that 14 percent of pediatric leg fractures occurred in this way. For example, a child’s shoe sole may stick to the slide on the way down while the adult’s weight and momentum continues.
Experts also say that play structure height and the depth of fill materials underneath should be considered. “The amount of loose fill needed depends on the height of your equipment,” said CPSC spokeswoman Nikki Fleming. She added that surfacing depth recommendations may be found in the 2006 Outdoor Home Playground Safety Handbook. Industry standards apply to public playgrounds and the handbook includes the latest safety standard information and tips, Ms. Fleming said, noting that this information has been adopted by many municipalities, according to MorningJournal.
“Many public schools and day cares are required to use shock-absorbing materials under playground equipment, but these requirements vary by state and municipality,” Ms. Fleming said. CPSC has recommended impact-attenuating surfacing under playground equipment as far back as the early 1980s. The commission does not maintain a list of products that rate well for safety, but does provide information about recalls and product-related playground incidents in its Safer Products Database, at saferproducts.gov.
National Safety Council (NSC.com) indicated how dangerous the playgrounds of decades ago were with all components were made of metal and slides would become so hot they would burn skin off thigh. NSC.com also noted that children would fly off spinning equipment or play 10 feet in the air on monkey bars to fall on very hard earth or concrete. Although playgrounds are no longer manufactured in this way, a recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study indicates that emergency departments still see more than 20,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related traumatic brain injury annually.
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