April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month! Many forms of child abuse exist but our discussion focuses on playgrounds. What do national statistics tell us? 44% of all playground injuries (2001-2008) were caused by falls from, into, or onto the equipment (Children’s Safety Network/Publications & Resouces, 2014).
What does this mean to city managers and residents? To reduce the frequency and severity of injuries on playgrounds, adequate protective surfacing must be in place on existing playgrounds. Look at your neighborhood playground. Does the surfacing appear worn out or eroded? Are there definitive depressions in the surface under slides, swings, and other high-use play events? These conditions indicate erosion of protective play surfacing under these areas. Potential for injury increases when safety surfacing is inadequate. Often, the safety-solution is to rake the surfacing material back into position under the play events. Poured-in-place rubber surfacing must be repaired but often, the repair is economical compared to replacement.
An effective playground provides enough risk to children to test their own limitations and overcome them. Hazards however, are unacceptable, for they increase the potential for unnecessary injury to children on the playground. If you see a surfacing hazard (as a city employee or a resident), contact your Parks & Recreation Manager or Community Services Manager. In many cases, simple maintenance can refurbish safety standards on the playground. In other cases, surfacing replacement is necessary to meet ASTM safety standards.
The goal is to prevent child abuse on the playground. Risk is necessary for children to grow and overcome their perceived limitations. Hazards however, are unnecessary and preventable, and account for many playground injuries (44% injuries from falls, 23% from equipment-related failure). That’s 68% of injuries resulting from surfacing and equipment-related failure! These injuries are preventable with maintenance and replacement of eroded surfacing and failing equipment.
If you perceive potential of failure on your neighborhood playground, contact your local Parks & Recreation or Community Services Manager. Often, these issues are easily solved. The benefits result in hazard-free playgrounds that provide appropriate risk for children to develop self-confidence and self-esteem.
Children’s Safety Network/Publications & Resouces. (2014, January). Retrieved from Children’s Safety Network: http://www.childrenssafetynetwork.org/publications/playground-infographic