There are an estimated 200,000 playground injuries a year, with as many as 15 children killed annually on the playground. Traumatic injuries to children on the playground can include severe brain damage, broken bones, spinal injuries, loss of eyesight, and paralysis.
These injuries can occur at any kind of playground—at school, in a public park, or anywhere else that equipment is set up for kids to play on. Maintaining the safety of this equipment is the responsibility of whoever owns it, even if it is a city or a school district.
As a parent, you want to make sure that every playground that your child plays on is safe. But there are many subtle dangers, hard to detect unless you’re an expert or an engineer, that can cause damage to your child.
The National Playground Safety Institute (NPSI) has identified a list of the “dirty dozen” playground dangers. Most of these are problems in design, construction, and maintenance, although parental supervision also plays a role.
The NPSI’s list:
- Improper protective surfaces. A playground may look safe and cozy, but the material underneath the playground equipment may lead to injury when a child lands on it after jumping off a swing or dropping down from a jungle gym. Concrete is out, and so is wood or hard- packed dirt, but even the softer landing materials like shredded rubber, wood chips, and those interlocking rubber mats need to be at least four inches thick.
- Inadequate use zones. Each piece of equipment should be surrounded by six feet of space.
- Protrusion and entanglement hazards. Large, unprotected bolts sticking out of playground equipment can literally poke an eye out, or cause a dangerous cut on a child.
- Entrapment in openings. Any opening in playground equipment that a child may be able to crawl through has to be either too small to do so or large enough that a child’s head and body can fit through it. Kids get trapped in equipment when their heads can get through an opening but then their bodies can’t. No hole in equipment should be between 3.5 and 9 inches across.
- Insufficient equipment spacing. This is where the playground equipment is all jammed together, not allowing enough space for the kids to play in each area. Each use area should be at least six feet apart, says the NPSI.
- Trip hazards. Things that stick up out of the surface can trip a child.
- Lack of supervision. Even if the playground is a public one, you are still responsible for supervising your child. If there is an injury, an attorney will want to know if you did everything that you reasonably could to watch your child.
- Age inappropriate activities. Make sure your child is playing on age- appropriate equipment.
- Lack of maintenance. The older the equipment, the more it needs to be maintained.
- Sharp edges. Equipment that starts out safe, like a bolt with plastic covering, can lose its protective covering. There are many other instances of sharp edges throughout playgrounds.
- Platforms with no guardrails. The NPSI recommends two- to- four foot high guardrails around all raised platforms.
- Using non- recommended playground equipment. The NPSI has lists of equipment that should and should not be employed in a playground. Obviously, for the most part, parents aren’t in a position to judge whether or not most of these dangers even exist just by a casual look around a playground. But the people who build and maintain the playgrounds are definitely responsible for this knowledge.
If your child has been injured on a playground, only a law firm with experience handling these cases can make a proper evaluation of your situation. Contact us to notify The Gilbert Law Group about your case, or call us toll free at 1-877-431-4529 to discuss your matter. All initial consultations are free.