Are Your Public Playgrounds Safe?

Each year, more than 200,000 children go to U.S. hospital emergency rooms with injuries associated with playground equipment. Most injuries occur when a child falls from the equipment onto the ground. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) provides the following checklist for public playground safety. Use it regularly to help make sure your local community or school playground is a safe place to play.

Public Playground Safety Checklist

  • 1. Make sure surfaces around playground equipment have at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, or pea gravel, or are mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials.
  • 2. Check that protective surfacing extends at least 6 feet in all directions from play equipment. For swings, be sure surfacing extends, in back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar.
  • 3. Make sure play structures more than 30 inches high are spaced at least 9 feet apart.
  • 4. Check for dangerous hardware, like open “S" hooks or protruding bolt ends.
  • 5. Make sure spaces that could trap children, such as openings in guardrails or between ladder rungs, measure less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches.
  • 6. Check for sharp points or edges in equipment.
  • 7. Look out for tripping hazards, like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.
  • 8. Make sure elevated surfaces, like platforms and ramps, have guardrails to prevent falls.
  • 9. Check playgrounds regularly to see that equipment and surfacing are in good condition.
  • 10. Carefully supervise children on playgrounds to make sure they’re safe.

Two helpful publications are available on the Web for downloading: American Society for Testing and Materials International Playground Audit Guide (www.playworldsystems.com/pw/Pdfs/pw_audit_guide.pdf) and the CPSC Handbook for Public Playground Safety (www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/325.pdf).

The New Hampshire Local Government Center’s (LGC) Risk Management Representatives and in-house Certified Playground Safety Inspector can assist you in the development of a playground safety inspection and maintenance program as well as in planning for new playground equipment.

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