Playground Safety

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Recent visits to YMCAs have raised concerns regarding child safety while using playgrounds and playground related equipment. Spring brings the start of day camps and warmer weather, both of which increase the usage of playgrounds. Procedures should be reviewed regarding the safe use of the equipment and safe monitoring of the children. More detailed information regarding playground safety can be found in the Risk Management Topic Playground Safety Guidelines located on our web site.

  1. Children should only be permitted to use age appropriate playground equipment. Using separate playground areas for the various ages of children helps the staff ensure that the children are not using equipment that is beyond their developmental skill levels. (Pre-school age children were noted using inadequately guarded elevated platforms, sliding poles, zip lines, etc. Allowing young children to use equipment that is not age-appropriate creates significant liability for both the supervisor and the J.)
  2. The complete fall area of all play equipment should be provided with a significant resilient surface comprised of energy absorbing mats or a contained bed of loose material that provides energy absorption. ADA access requirements can be met less expensively with engineered wood fiber than energy absorbing mats. Information is available from Zeager Bros. (Woodcarpet™), 800-296-9227, www.woodcarpet.com, among others. (Unprotected paved surfaces, inadequate depths of loose material, compacted wood shavings that provide minimal resiliency, inappropriate “cushioning” materials, e.g., sand, which when dry attracts cats and when wet is as hard as concrete, and exposed anchoring mechanisms were found on the playgrounds observed.)
  3. Before the high use season begins, a complete inspection of the playground equipment and the surrounding area should be made. A checklist can help ensure that all pertinent aspects have been evaluated. Areas of concern include any moving parts, including ropes, chains, connectors, pivot points, and flexible walkways, railings, steps, platform surfaces, ground surfaces and trip hazards, anchoring blocks, resilient material, fences and gates. Be alert for small openings which can become traps for children’s fingers or nests for stinging insects. (Worn “S” hooks and “U” bolt connections that hold the swing chain to main equipment, irregular play surfaces, wasp nests, splinter hazards from handrails and decks, snag hazards from connecting screws and nails, and missing or insufficient railings were observed at various playgrounds.)
  4. Especially in the spring, make certain that the play equipment is dry before allowing the children to play on it. Wet surfaces significantly increase the chance for slips and falls. (Fortunately, only once did we see children playing on equipment that had not been adequately dried before use.)

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.

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