Playground Safety And The Equipment

Before you allow your child to play in an unfamiliar playground, you should inspect the area yourself to insure playground safety and that the equipment is up to standards.

Every year, a significant number of children are seriously injured or even killed due to unsafe conditions at a playground. Some of these tragedies can be attributed to deliberate misuse of the equipment, but many others are caused by poorly maintained equipment or other factors which could have been prevented. Before you allow your child to play at a new playground, you should check the equipment yourself to insure safety. Children are very experimental and fearless when playing, so there is very little a parent can do to prevent the occasional cuts and scrapes a child can incur while playing. What you want to avoid at all costs are those conditions that could easily cause more serious injuries to your child, such as equipment failure or improper installation. Here are five areas to consider when inspecting your child's playground area.

1. Overall maintenance and upkeep. Do you see signs that a responsible adult has made efforts to keep the equipment clean and in proper working order? Look for signs of fresh paint or other improvements on older rides. Are there any broken parts of the equipment still within a child's reach? Broken swingset seats should be removed or placed out of the reach of children. A deterrent should be placed on any ladder leading to a closed ride, such as a warning sign or a locked gate.

2. Proper installation. Any ride that has been recently installed should appear secure and stable to the untrained eye. Watch the ride in action- do you see signs of loose anchoring rods or excessive sway? Older equipment may develop a few bends and twists over time, but these imperfections should not affect the way a ride operates. If a ride appears to move excessively, do not allow your child to use it until it has been properly repaired. Be especially watchful when it comes to exposed bolts and other construction equipment. Such bolts and accessories should either be placed out of the normal path a child may take on the ride, or modified to prevent injuries- capped off, filed down or cut flush with the attached piece of equipment.

3. Presence of adult supervision. Schoolyard playgrounds usually have at least one adult who acts as a monitor for the children while playing. City parks may or may not have someone assigned to monitor the playground, so parents should supervise their children whenever possible. If you cannot be there with your child, make sure that there are other adults who can report to you if an accident occurs. Instruct your child to tell an adult if they are hurt on the playground, and give them an information card that contains all contact phone numbers and addresses. If your child is seriously injured, this card will speak for them.

4. Materials designed to cushion falls. At the very least, a good playground will have sand or gravel piles placed around the equipment in order to break falls and cushion hard landings. Some parks will use a natural mulch mixture to achieve the same effect, while more modern playgrounds will use rubberized matting materials. Check your child's playground for any of these materials. If there are none, or the material has been scattered to the point of ineffectiveness, you should contact the person responsible for park maintenance and request that more material be brought in. Sand and gravel won't protect a child from the most serious falls possible, but they will absorb enough shock to keep minor injuries from becoming major ones.

5. Examine the atmosphere surrounding the playground. Your child will be spending a great deal of time at the playground, some of it unsupervised. Observe the human atmosphere surrounding the playground carefully. Do you see older children who seem to be causing trouble for younger ones? Do you see any teenagers who may be congregating too close to the playground area, or engaged in dangerous activities? Do all of the adults in the playground area itself appear to belong with a child? Pedophiles often stake out playgrounds, looking for children who appear unsupervised or vulnerable. Advise your children to avoid strangers who try to talk to them while they are playing. If you cannot supervise your child, ask another responsible adult to keep an eye out for any unknown person making contact with your child.

© High Speed Ventures 2011