Play environments are fundamental to the healthy development of children. They provide children opportunities to develop motor, cognitive, perceptual, and social skills. Unfortunately, parks and playgrounds are often sites of preventable injuries. Municipalities, educators, and landowners who build and maintain playground areas are responsible for creating and maintaining safe play environments. This is true whether the playgrounds are for public or private use. Playgrounds should be fun, challenging, and safe.
Although falls generally account for the majority of playground injuries, injury also frequently results from limbs or clothing getting caught in equipment. Children are also injured by protrusions, pinch points, sharp edges, hot surfaces, and playground debris. Playground hazards that typically result in injury often involve :
- faulty or defective playground equipment;
- improperly maintained playground equipment;
- inadequate surfacing beneath playground equipment;
- inappropriate height of playground equipment;
- inadequate supervision of children during school hours;
- failure to utilize age-appropriate playground equipment;
- failure to post signs warning of potential safety hazards.
Utilizing age-appropriate equipment, following a regular maintenance schedule, limiting equipment height, and maintaining adequate surfacing, combined with appropriate adult supervision, greatly reduces the incidence and severity of playground injuries.
In an effort to prevent playground injuries, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) have adopted standards to regulate play sites and equipment. These standards are frequently updated and were extensively revised in 2005. The CPSC is in the process of updating its “Public Playground Safety Handbook (2008)” and a draft of the proposed handbook is presently available on the CPSC website.