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Oklahoma Safe Kids Coalition
FOR RELEASE: April 30, 2002
Play It Safe on Playgrounds
It is estimated that every 2 1/2 minutes in America, a child is taken to an emergency room for a playground-related injury. That's more than 200,000 children every year. However, most playground injuries can be prevented, and this spring, parents are urged to check out local playgrounds for safety.
"As parents and caregivers, we need to make sure that playgrounds are safe for our children," said Martha Collar, coordinator, Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition, a program of the Oklahoma State Department of Health. "By taking a few precautions, we can assure that our playgrounds will be places to have fun -- not places to get hurt."
Although playground designs are changing dramatically and often incorporate safety-conscious features, a thorough check and modification of playgrounds, especially older ones, could prevent serious injuries. “It comes as a surprise to most parents to learn that only playgrounds at child care centers are inspected for safety. Playgrounds at schools, both public and private, and parks do not have to meet minimum standards,” said Collar.
More than 70 percent of all playground-related injuries involve falls to the surface and 12 percent involve falls onto the equipment itself. Head injuries are involved in three-fourths of all fall-related deaths associated with playground equipment. Children between the ages of 6 and 8 have the highest rates of playground equipment-related injury.
To determine if your neighborhood, school or home playground is safe, use the following guidelines:
Checking the surface under playground equipment is critical considering that more than 90 percent of public playgrounds lack adequate protective surfacing. While kids may still fall, a cushioned surface can significantly help in reducing serious injuries. Asphalt or concrete are not acceptable. Grass and soil, while better than asphalt or concrete, can become compacted making them hard and dangerous as well. If well maintained, 12 inches of shredded mulch, sand, pea gravel, crushed stone and other loose surfaces are safe. Though costly, rubber mats, synthetic turf and other artificial materials also are safe surfaces and require less maintenance.
Equipment should be mounted securely in level concrete footing below surface level to prevent children from tripping. To maintain adequate fall zones (the area under and around playground equipment where children can land), equipment should be located at least six feet away from fences and walls and at least 12 feet from other equipment. If many children use the playground, extra space around equipment will ensure fewer injuries.
Install slip-resistant surfaces on climbing and gripping parts of all playground equipment.
Install guardrails or other protective barriers around elevated platforms.
Paint or galvanize metal equipment to prevent rusting, which can result in weakened structures and sharp, broken edges.
Remove potentially hazardous parts such as protruding bolts or sharp corners. These items can cause strangulation, punctures or scrapes. Close all S-hooks completely.
To prevent head entrapment, there should be no openings between 3 1/2 to 9 inches on any playground equipment.
Being struck by or jumping from swings is the cause of many injuries. Lightweight rubber or plastic seats are safer than heavier metal or wooden ones. Only two swings should be allowed per bay; remove one or two swings from a set to reduce crowding.
Maintaining safe equipment is only part of playground safety. Adequate supervision by adults is required at all times since 40 percent of all playground injuries are related to inadequate supervision. Children should be taught the following rules:
If there is a problem with poorly maintained playgrounds, parents should encourage a local parent/teacher organization or community group to maintain playgrounds properly. The group can work with the local school board or city council to commission a regular maintenance contract with a professional playground equipment company.
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