Playground Safety

Each year, 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. Most injuries are the result of falls - falls to the ground below equipment, but falls from one piece of equipment to another are also reported. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) offers the following safety tips:

Protective Surfacing. Since almost 60 percent of all injuries are caused by falls to the ground, protective surfacing under and around all playground equipment is the most critical safety factor on playgrounds. Asphalt and concrete do not have any shock absorbing properties. Similarly, grass and turf's ability to absorb a shock during a fall can be reduced considerably through wear and environmental conditions. Certain loose-fill surfacing materials such as double shredded bark mulch, wood chips, fine sand, and fine gravel are acceptable. Certain manufactured synthetic surfaces are acceptable, however obtain shock-absorbing performance data before using these surfaces.
Fall Zones. A fall zone, covered with a protective surfacing material, is essential under and around equipment where a child might fall. This should be free of other equipment and obstacles onto which a child might fall. Stationary climbing equipment should have a fall zone extending a minimum of 6 feet in all directions. Swings should have a fall zone that is two times the height of the pivot or swing hanger in front and in back of the swing seats.
Swing Spacing. To prevent injuries from impact with moving swings, swings should not be too close together or too close to support structures. There should be no more than two swing seats suspended in the same section or bay of the support structure. The tire swing should be suspended in the same section or bay of the support structure.
Potential Head Entrapment Hazards. Generally, openings that are between 3 ½ inches and 9 inches present a head entrapment hazard because they are large enough to permit a child's body to go through, but are too small to permit the head to go through. When children enter such openings, feet first, they may become entrapped by the head and strangle.
Potential Entanglement Hazards. Open "S" hooks, especially on swings, and any protrusions or equipment components/hardware, which may act as hooks or catch-points, can catch children's clothing and cause strangulation incidents. Close "S" hooks as tightly as possible and eliminate protrusions or catch-points on playground equipment.
Pinch or Crush Points. There should be no exposed moving parts that may present a pinching or crushing hazard.
Playground Maintenance. Playgrounds should be inspected on a regular basis. Look for hazards, such as, hardware that is loose or worn, protrusions and projections, exposed equipment footings, splinters, large cracks, decayed wood components, damaged swing sets, handholds and guardrails, and deterioration and corrosion on structural components which connect to the ground.
Lead Paint Hazards. Testing by the CPSC and various state and local jurisdictions has shown that many school, park, and community playgrounds across the U.S. have metal and wooden playground equipment that presents a potential lead paint hazard primarily for children six years old and younger. Children this age are at risk since they put their hands on the equipment while playing, and then put their hands in their mouths. Determine this hazard on a case-by-case basis, considering such factors as: the condition of the paint, the playground equipment's age, location, use condition, and overall safety, and the regulatory requirements of individual states, cities, and localities.