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Loss Control Insights for Schools

Your Playground Safety Checklist

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More than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger suffer playground injuries serious enough to land them in the emergency room each year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. As long as the warm weather continues, permitting children to play outside, follow these playground safety rules to make sure your playground makes the grade.

Safety Requirements of a Good Playground

  • Purchase playground equipment only from manufacturers that adhere to safety guidelines and standards.
  • Pay attention to correct installation, as even well-designed playgrounds can pose hazards when improperly set up or damaged.
  • Prioritize outdoor play safety by inspecting equipment and following playground safety guidelines.

Common Playground Hazards to Watch Out For

  • Improper playground surfaces:

    • Choose suitable materials like engineered wood fiber, rubber mulch, sand, pea gravel or safety rubber mats.
    • Maintain protective surfacing depth of at least 12 inches and extend at least six feet in all directions around stationary equipment.
    • Regularly check and restore displaced fill materials.

    • Ensure playgrounds are free of tripping hazards, such as exposed concrete footings, anchoring devices, rocks or tree stumps.

  • Overcrowded playground equipment:

    • Maintain a clear area of at least six feet around play structures.
    • Keep structures taller than 30 inches at least nine feet apart.

    • Ensure proper spacing and arrangement for swings

      • There should be at least 24 inches between seats and no more than two seats in the same section of the structure.

      • Swing set area should be twice the height of the suspending bar both behind and in front of the swings (for example, if the top of the swing set is 10 feet high, the surface area below should extend 20 feet).

  • Unprotected elevated play areas:

    • Install guardrails or protective barriers for platforms higher than 30 inches (such as a hooded structure at the top of a slide).
    • Ensure even spacing of stairs, steps, and rungs, with round rungs being at least 1–1.5 inches in diameter so small hands can easily grip them.

    • Open slides should have sides at least four inches high.

  • Playground head entrapment spaces:

    • Gaps between rails, bars and ropes should be less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches to prevent head entrapment and fall-through risks.
  • Sharp points and edges on equipment:

    • Regularly check for hazards like broken parts, splinters, protruding nails and rust.
  • Strangulation and entanglement risks:

    • Watch for gaps, protruding ends and misaligned loops.

    • Consider posting a sign to warn children against wearing or playing with items that can get caught on equipment, such as jump ropes or necklaces.

  • Thermal burns from equipment:

    • Be cautious of hot metal and plastic equipment; consider shading your playground or restricting to certain play areas if the temperature gets too high.

Playground Safety Guidelines

In addition to avoiding the common playground hazards mentioned above, make sure you have regularly scheduled preventative maintenance inspections. There should also be routine, if not daily, playground checks to ensure that equipment and surfacing remain in good condition.

Finally, be sure to train staff on playground safety standards and guidelines, as someone must always carefully supervise students anytime they’re on the playground to help keep them safe. Consider using signage in play areas to provide guidance on age appropriateness of the equipment and playground rules.

Learn More about Playground Safety

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