With the new school year just around the corner, playgrounds around Connecticut are sure to be busy with children salvaging their final days of summer vacation. But while out enjoying the last days of summer, Connecticut SAFE KIDS wants parents to know that although built for fun, playgrounds can be dangerous.
“Parents underestimate the numerous hazards children are exposed to on playgrounds.” says Eileen Henzy, MPH, director of Connecticut SAFE KIDS. “Supervision is a good thing, but often it isn’t enough. Carefree scrambling on monkey bars, sliding boards and swings sometimes ends with a trip to the emergency room.”
Henzy added that hospital emergency rooms treat more than 200,000 children a year for playground injuries, with children ages 5 to 14 accounting for more than 70 percent of these injuries. About 15 to 20 children die annually from such injuries. Recent studies have shown that falls account for 70 percent of the injuries, while lack of parental supervision is responsible for more than 40 percent.
“It’s a matter of physics.” Henzy said. “The higher the fall and harder the surface, the worse the injury.”
To guard against falls, make sure your child’s playground has guardrails on all elevated equipment, and a canopy at the top of sliding boards that guide children into the proper sitting position. And watch those swing sets. Each set should have only two swings. When there are three, the two end swings can smash into the center swing. Clothing is another overlooked factor.
“There should be no drawstrings on sweatshirts and the like” Henzy said. “Just pull the drawstrings out, because they can get caught on equipment and strangle a child.”
SAFE KIDS offers additional advice to ensure that every playground trip is safe and fun.
Playground surface: It should contain at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, shredded tires (not radials, which contain metal) or pea gravel. The worst surfaces: concrete, asphalt, and hard-packed dirt.
Fall zones: Shock-absorbing material (often the surfaces described above, but sometimes deeper) should extend at least six feet in all directions from stationary equipment, in front of and behind swings, and a distance equal to twice the maximum height at which a child can climb or dangle.
Catch points: There should be no exposed bolts, open “S” hooks, or protrusions.
Openings: Spaces in guardrails, between platforms and between ladder rungs should be less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches.
Parts: Watch for sharp points or edges.
Tripping hazards: There should be no elevated tree roots, stumps, rocks or exposed concrete.
Guardrails: Platforms, ramps and connecting bridges should have guardrails.
Maintenance: Learn who is responsible for maintaining the playground.
Supervision: Your view of kids at play should not be obstructed.
Age appropriateness: Limit kids to areas specifically designed for their age level.
Peeling paint: It may contain lead.