Spring has sprung here in Oregon and that means our community playgrounds are being visited by more children. Unfortunately, playground injuries are common – estimates show that children are seen over 200,000 times annually in an ER for playground related injuries, according to the CDC. From 2010 – 2012, 241 children ages 1 – 14 in Oregon, were hospitalized from falls on playgrounds.
April 20-24th has been proclaimed National Playground Safety Week and it’s a great time for parents and caregivers to take stock of the playgrounds in their communities.
The acronym SAFE is an easy way to keep playground safety in mind:
S – Supervision: Is there any adult supervision at the playground? Are the other children playing being supervised by a parent or caregiver? If not, are the other children playing in a safe manner? If you feel that other children are playing dangerously, it may be better to visit another playground. Parents of toddlers should always stay within a foot or two of their child as they explore and play.
A – Age appropriate: Age appropriate equipment will depend both on physical characteristics and developmentally appropriate play. For a toddler, developmentally appropriate play will be crawling and walking, while a school aged child would be able to play on swings and slides on their own. If the playground equipment is not appropriate for your child’s age and skills, it is not wise to allow children to play on it. They could be hurt by climbing, or falling from it.
F – Falls: Falls are the most common playground injury. Many playgrounds have adopted foam matting or shredded rubber surfaces. Equipment placed on asphalt, concrete, or grass should be avoided because of the greater risk of head injury should a child fall. The Public Playground Safety Handbook from the CPSC includes information on safety standards and prohibits new playgrounds from being built on concrete or asphalt. Playgrounds with newer foam matting typically provide a safer environment for children. However, remember, no surface will prevent all injuries.
E – Equipment maintenance: If a playground is in disrepair or the equipment is broken or rusted, steer clear. Safe Kids Oregon encourages you to share concerns with those responsible for maintenance. Watch for broken swing chains, loose bars, slides that are not attached securely, and wooden seesaws with splinters or loose boards. Hot playground equipment can also be a burn risk to a child, even on an overcast day.
Also keep in mind the environment surrounding the playground. Many cities have multiple use park spaces, which may include ponds or lakes and sports fields but may not have adequate fencing or barriers around these areas.
For more information, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission has a variety of checklists regarding safety on playgrounds. Click here for more information.
Download and share this Playground Safety Tips flier from Safe Kids Worldwide.
Safe Kids Oregon works to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the number one cause of death for children in the United States. Safe Kids Oregon is a member of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing unintentional injury. Safe Kids Oregon was founded in 1995 and is led by Oregon Public Health. Click here for information on other Injury Areas.