Playground safety is an important conversation to have as over 200,000 children visit the emergency room each year due to playground-related injuries. Sadly, nearly 80 percent of all playground injuries involve falls, which can leave children with long-lasting brain injuries. Fortunately, we can decrease playground injuries by building safer parks and educating families on the importance of outdoor safety.
Below are the top five playground safety questions to ask as you design a commercial play space for your community.
1. Is the playground surface safe?
Unsafe surfaces like concrete, asphalt or grass have the risk of severely injuring or even killing children. A simple fall can leave a young child with devastating consequences. Thankfully, these injuries can be prevented by choosing the right safety surfacing. Acceptable playground surface options includes:
- Poured-in-place rubber
- Bonded rubber
- Rubber tiles
- Synthetic turf
- Engineered wood fiber
2. What ages is the playground equipment designed for?
Each age makes a big difference in what a child can do. This is why playgrounds are separated into different groups, usually 2 to 5 years and 5 to 12 years. If you're building a preschool playground, you'll want to choose equipment and surfacing that is appropriate for kids under 5. If you have infants and toddlers ages 6-23 months you will want to find age appropriate equipment that allows for exploration and discovery geared specifically to early childhood.
A church playground, on the other hand, may need to accommodate a wider range of ages. In this case, you could do two separate play areas and have the appropriate signage with suggested age groups. We also recommend posting playground rules, as not everyone has a grown up with them or has the same rules for play.
3. Is there enough space between the playground equipment?
There are general rules to follow when it comes to use zone requirements. For example, you should allow a minimum use zone of six feet around playground equipment. However, there may be special rules for certain types of equipment like swings, slides, pedestals and spinners. Talk to the equipment manufacturer or a Certified Playground Safety Inspector for exact information.
4. How much sun is too much?
Sun creates a number of dangers on the playground, though it's something that people often overlook. However, the hot sun can make plastic and/or metal playground equipment hot, burning young children. Also, spending too much time in the sun can raise the risk for sunburn, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
To combat this problem, be sure to incorporate shade into your playground design. Take advantage of the natural surroundings of trees and shrubs and also talk to your commercial playground company about adding in shade structures like sails, umbrellas or cantilever shades.
5. How often will the playground be maintained?
To ensure your playground stays safe, it must be maintained on a regular basis. It is necessary to schedule regular safety inspections with a third party company or a certified playground inspector. Frequency for inspections depends on how much the playground is used. You can speak to a professional and get their suggestions as to type and frequency of inspections.
Playground equipment wears out at different times depending on the materials they're made from, how often they're used and the local weather conditions. As far as updating playground equipment, 10 to 15 years is a good estimate. Most warranties only cover up to 10 years on plastic, so this is a good time to assess the condition of the equipment. But most commercial playground equipment lasts for an average of 15 years providing it is well maintained.
These five questions are important to ask when designing a playground for your community. They will help you stay focused on creating a safe and engaging play space for everyone in the community to enjoy!