Playground Safety: Five Steps You Can Take

This week marks National Playground Safety Week, and with the weather getting warmer children are running back to playgrounds at school, church, in parks and backyards.

But the combination of excited children and uninspected playground equipment makes for a hazardous situation for kids. In fact, government statistics indicate more than 200,000 preschool and elementary children will be injured severely enough this year on playgrounds to require emergency room care.

So, what can you do to protect your children at their favorite playground?

Just remember to check for the five Ss. They are:

S RINGS — They attach a swing’s chains to the overhead bar. See if the S rings at your child’s playground are worn or bent. Bent S rings can cause the chain on the swing to come loose. On home playgrounds, swings are responsible for most injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

SHARP EDGES — Bolts and screws, bent metal – check for sharp edges around the playground. They can cause scrapes and serious cuts.

SOFT SURFACES — Mats made of safety-tested rubber are a great surface. Wood chips, mulch or sand, about a foot deep, is fine. On public playgrounds, more injuries occur on climbers than on any other equipment, the CDC reports.

SPACE — Kids need plenty of landing space when jumping off swings or a jungle gym. Make sure the soft surfaces extend well beyond the equipment. A good rule of thumb is double the height of a swing set.

SUPERVISION — Watch your children on the playground – they certainly won’t mind the extra attention.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission says that 80 percent of all injuries to children occur on playgrounds at schools or parks. Fractures of the wrist, arm and elbow are the most common injuries on playgrounds.

While all children who use playgrounds are at risk for injury, girls sustain injuries (55%) slightly more often than boys (45%), the CDC says. Children ages 5 to 9 have higher rates of emergency department visits for playground injuries than any other age group. Most of their injuries occur at school.

The CPSC has published an Outdoor Home Playground Safety Handbook which you can download at http://www.cpsc.gov/PageFiles/116410/324.pdf.

Additionally, the National Program for Playground Safety was created in October 1995 to help communities across the nation examine the critical issues surrounding playground safety. They promote the concept of S.A.F.E. representing supervision, age-appropriate, fall surfacing and equipment to assist in the evaluation of outdoor and home playgrounds. You can read more at http://www.playgroundsafety.org/safe.

Make sure your family has a safe spring and summer by checking for the 5 Ss at your child’s favorite playground.

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