As the weather warms up and trips to the park become frequent, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the risks of playground equipment and injury prevention strategies.
Years ago, playgrounds were downright scary. Everything was made of metal. The slides were so hot they'd burn the skin right off your thighs. They don't make them like they used to, and that's a good thing. But a recent study by the CDC finds that emergency departments still see more than 20,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related traumatic brain injury each year.
What to Look For
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has come up with playground hazards you should watch out for when taking your kids to the park.
- Improper protective surfaces: Fall surfaces should be made of wood chips, mulch, wood fibers, sand, pea gravel, shredded tires or rubber mats and should be at least 12 inches deep.
- Protrusion hazards: Beware of hardware that is 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.
- Head entrapment hazards: There should be no openings that measure between 3 ½ and 9 inches.
- Overcrowded play area: Swings should be set far enough away from other equipment that children won't be hit by a moving swing.
- Lack of supervision: Children under age 4 shouldn't play on climbing equipment or horizontal ladders.
- Age inappropriate activities: Spring-loaded seesaws are best for young children. Avoid adjustable seesaws with chains because children can crush their hands under the chains. A traditional seesaw should not hit the ground. "Whirls" or "roundabouts" are best for school-age children.
- Lack of maintenance: Metal or wooden swing seats should be replaced with soft seats, and equipment should not be split or splintered.
- Sharp edges on equipment
- Platforms with no guardrails
If your playground is unsafe, report the problem to the owner or park district. And remember, there is no substitute for parental supervision, especially for young children.
For more information visit http://www.playgroundsafety.org/