May 16, 2000
Building a Home Playground?
51,000 children a year are
injured on home playground equipment
Washington, DC (SafetyAlerts) - The U.S. Consumer
Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has reported that about 200,000 children are treated in
U.S. hospital emergency rooms for playground equipment-related injuries - an estimated
148,000 of these injuries involve public playground equipment and an estimated 51,000
involve home playground equipment.
Also, about 15 children die each year
as a result of playground equipment-related incidents. Most of the injuries are the result
of falls. These are primarily falls to the ground below the equipment, but falls from one
piece of equipment to another are also reported. Most of the deaths are due to
strangulations, though some are due to falls.
Knowing the affect certain materials
have on the safety of your home playground and what is the best way to set it up, can help
reduce the risk of injury or death. The CPSC has provided some information that may
help you decide what is best for your home playground.
1. Protective Surfacing
- Since almost 60% of all injuries are caused by falls to the ground, protective surfacing
under and around all playground equipment can reduce the risk of serious head injury.
Falls on asphalt and concrete can
result in serious head injury and death. Do not place playground equipment over these
surfaces. Also grass and turf lose their ability to absorb shock through wear and
environmental conditions. Always use protective surfacing.
Certain loose-fill surfacing
materials are acceptable, such as the types and depths shown in the table.
Certain manufactured synthetic
surfaces also are acceptable; however, test data on shock absorbing performance should be
requested from the manufacturer.
Below is the height in feet from
which a fall is unlikely to cause a life threatening head injury.
|Type of Material
|Double Shredded Bark Mulch
2. Use Zones - A use zone,
covered with a protective surfacing material, is essential under and around equipment
where a child might fall. This area should be free of other equipment and obstacles onto
which a child might fall.
Stationary climbing equipment and slides should have a use zone extending a minimum of 6'
in all directions from the perimeter of the equipment.
Swings should have a use zone extending a minimum of 6' from the outer edge of the support
structure on each side. The use zone in front and back of the swing should extend out a
minimum distance of twice the height of the swing as measured from the ground to the swing
hangers on support structure.
3. Swing Spacing - To prevent injuries from impact with moving swings,
swings should not be too close together or too close to support structures. Swing spacing
- At least 8 inches between suspended swings and
between a swing and the support frame.
- At least 16 inches from suing support frame to a
pendulum see- saw.
- Minimum clearance between the ground and underside
of swing seat should be 8 inches.
- Swing sets should be securely anchored.
4. Elevated Surfaces - Platforms
more than 30" above the ground should have guardrails to prevent falls.
5. Potential Head Entrapment Hazards
- In general, openings that are closed on all sides, should be less than 3 1/2" or
greater than 9". Openings that are between 3' 1/2" and 9" present a head
entrapment hazard because they are large enough to permit a child's body to go trough, but
are too small to permit the head to go trough. When children enter such openings, feet
first, they may become entrapped by the head and strangle.
6. Potential Entrapment and Strangulation
Hazards - Open "S" hooks, especially on swings, and any protrusions or
equipment component/hardware which may act as hooks or catch-points can entangle with
children's clothing and cause strangulation incidents. Close "S" hooks as
tightly as possible and eliminate protrusions or catch-points on playground equipment.
7. Pinch or Crush Points - There
should be no exposed moving parts which may present a pinching or crushing hazard.
8. Playground Maintenance -
Playgrounds should be inspected on a regular basis. Inspect protective surfacing
especially mulch, and maintain the proper depth. If any of the following conditions are
noted, they should be removed, corrected or repaired immediately to prevent injuries:
- Hardware is loose or worn, or that has protrusions
- Ropes, and items with cords placed around the neck
can get caught on playground equipment and strangle a child. Many children have died when
a rope they were wearing got caught on playground equipment, or they became entangled in a
- Supervise, and teach your child safe play. Teach
your child not to walk or play close to a moving swing, and not to tie ropes to playground
- Exposed equipment footings.
- Scattered debris, litter, rocks, or tree roots.
- Rust and chipped paint on metal components.
- Splinters, large cracks, and decayed wood
- Deterioration and corrosion on structural
components which connect to the ground.
- Missing or damaged equipment components, such as
handholds, guardrails, swing seats.
For more information on playground safety,
refer to CPSC's Handbook for Public Playground Safety. To obtain a copy, send a postcard
with your name, address, and name of the publication to U.S. Consumer Product Safety
Commission, Washington, D.C. 20207
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