Earlier this year a boy died while playing in an indoor play structure. The boy had climbed the netting that surrounded the structure to an area not designed for access by a child and died after entrapment in that part of the structure. Is your YMCA vulnerable to this type of accident? If your YMCA has play structures with netting surrounding them that is not designed for climbing or if your YMCA takes field trips to places that have such netting, you are at risk. Be sure to pre-check off-site facilities before use.
That structure was enclosed with netting comprised of 2-inch squares, which allows more than adequate space for children to place their hands and feet and climb to areas that were intended for authorized access only. This type netting is frequently used to keep children within a play area, especially ball pits.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) approves of two separate types of netting for use on playgrounds: containment netting, designed to keep children within approved playground areas; and climbing netting, designed to provide children access to different areas of the play equipment. The types of netting are not interchangeable. Climbing netting should never be utilized for containment purposes.
The CPSC recommends that only “no-climb” containment netting be used for restricting access or defining play areas. “No-climb” netting has ¼-inch square openings instead of the 2-inch square openings of the netting cited above. This size of opening prevents children from climbing the netting to areas that were not designed for play. “No-climb” netting should be installed to a height of 7 feet for adequate protection.
Climbing netting should be comprised of openings that do not create an entrapment hazard for the child. CPSC guidelines to prevent entrapment disallow openings that will allow passage of any sphere between 3 ½ inches and 9 inches in diameter. Thus, 3-inch or 9 ½-inch square openings are satisfactory for climbing nets, but 4-inch square or a rectangular opening with any dimension less than 9 inches are not acceptable. Age-appropriateness for the children who will be climbing must be considered for netting with larger openings, e.g., 15-in square openings, as smaller children have difficulty safely negotiating the larger openings. Climbing netting should not swing freely; two opposing edges should be secured.
The use of appropriate playground netting is only the first step in ensuring that the play structures are safe. Any facility can have injuries, and the primary factor in reducing injuries is adequate supervision. It is imperative that the staff-child ratios meet or exceed the required minimums, and that the staff present is focused on the children’s safety whenever they are on the play structure. The combination of safe equipment and proper supervision greatly reduces the risk of injury to children.
Please call us at 800-463-8546 to discuss this or any other risk management safety tip, or visit our web site at www.redwoodsgroup.com to learn more about YMCA risk management issues.