According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger are taken to emergency rooms each year with injuries from playground equipment. Not only broken bones and abrasions but concussions and severe head injuries have been the result of mishaps on a piece of equipment that was meant to provide fun. Dave Bos, Executive Director of the League Association of Risk Management (LARM) reminds city officials that they need to inspect municipally owned playground equipment regularly as outdated and even new playground equipment may have the potential to cause injuries.
“City or village staff or board/council members should make it a habit of looking at their playgrounds with a critical eye. Is there an improper ground surface? Is the equipment too close together for the space provided? Are there unprotected elevated areas? Look for spaces that a child’s head might be entrapped. Playground equipment should also be free of protruding bolts and other sharp points and edges,” Bos said.
The National Safety Council (NSC) recommends that surfaces around playground equipment have “at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand or pea gravel, or mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials.” Other tips include making sure there aren’t any exposed concrete footings, rocks or tree stumps in the area. Playground equipment should be free of protruding bolt ends, hooks, and other sharp points and edges. Since 80% of playground accidents are due to falls, make sure that all platforms higher than 30 inches have guardrails or barriers.
“Many of us grew up playing on some pieces of playground equipment that weren’t entirely safe. With new products that are made of safer materials and equipment being designed as a result of research done on playground safety, cities are more equipped to provide a safer playground experience for the kids in their community,” Bos said.
LARM Loss Control staff have taken steps to learn more about playground safety. Bos, Fred Wiebelhaus, LARM Loss Control/Claims Manager, and Randy Peters, LARM Loss Control Specialist, received training and earned the Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) designation through the National Recreation and Park Association. The CPSI certification program provides comprehensive training on playground safety issues including hazard identification, equipment specifications, surfacing requirements, and risk management methods.
“It may be as simple as tightening up a bolt that has become loose but there are probably some pieces of equipment in playgrounds across Nebraska that need to be repaired or possibly replaced. An audit of your playground by a certified playground inspector can go a long way towards preventing a liability for cities and villages. Safety of the children of our community is a number one priority and it’s the responsibility of elected officials and staff to make sure their playgrounds are free of hazards,” said Bos.
For more information about scheduling a playground audit, LARM members can call Randy Peters at (402) 310-5356 or Fred Wiebelhaus at (402) 440-9129.
(Photo taken at Cedar Creek, Nebraska)