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Playground Safety: 5 Signs Your Equipment Needs an Inspection

Young girl practicing playground safety on playground equipment

Every year, nearly 200,000 children go to the emergency room for playground related injuries and improper playground safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 20,000 of these children suffer from traumatic brain injuries, and 75 percent of these injuries happen on public playground equipment.

If you’re a part of a parks and recreation organization, you know how important it is for your public spaces to be safe. Your playground should have an inspection and audit done every few years, and River Valley Recreation is happy to help you with that process. Before we get started, here are a few safety tips and problem areas that will help you determine whether or not your playground equipment is due for an inspection.

Does Your Flooring Have Enough Fall Protection?

Accidents happen, and children on playgrounds are likely going to fall at some point. With that in mind, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has a list of acceptable and unacceptable ground types for under playground equipment. These are the materials you’ll want to avoid to limit playground related injuries:

  • Asphalt
  • Concrete
  • Grass
  • Dirt
  • Carpet (not tested to ASTM F1292 standards)
  • CCA Treated Wood Mulch

The safest and most common materials you’ll want to use are pea gravel, sand, shredded or recycled rubber mulch, wood mulch (not CCA-treated), wood chips, or any other materials tested to ASTM F1292. Each of these materials also likely has a minimum fill depth, and River Valley Recreation can help you determine which material will best suit your needs.

Is the Metal Equipment Protected Against Rust?

Depending on the type of material you use for your playground equipment, you’ll need to make sure it cannot rust. If you have any metals that are not inherently corrosion-resistant, they will need to be appropriately painted or galvanized to keep rust at a minimum.

Also, whatever paint you use needs to be kept from flaking (or rusting) so that you can prevent children from playing with or consuming peeling and deteriorating materials. We recommend that this be part of your routine maintenance checklist.

Is the Wood Equipment Deteriorating or Splintering?

While they’re not as common anymore, you may still have wooden playgrounds in your public space. If that’s the case, you’ll want to make sure it’s not showing signs of too much deterioration or splintering.

There are certain woods, like cedar and redwood, which are naturally rot- and bug-resistant and can help reduce deterioration over time. If you use a different wood type in your playground equipment, it should be pressure treated. An important safety tip is to note that certain older pressure treatment chemicals should not be used (like chromated copper arsenate). Still, you should check with the CPSC for a list of acceptable wood treatments.

Is There Enough Space Between the Swings?

No playground is complete without swings, but did you know that the CPSC recommends not using specific types of swings? For proper playground safety, we recommend that no metal swings (such as the large animal figures), rope swings, or swinging exercise rings be used in the design of your playground. These could cause choking or falling hazards for the children on your playgrounds.

It’s also important to note that regular swing sets should typically have 24-inches of space between each swing, and at least 30-inches between the swing and the frame. In addition, if you have a 10-foot swing, the swing area should have 20 feet of ground surfacing around it to help with any possible playground related injuries.

Are There Any Head Entrapment Spaces?

One of the most serious concerns in regards to playground safety is head entrapment. Head entrapment occurs when a child’s head gets stuck in an opening on playground equipment and can possibly cause strangulation and death. This tends to happen when a child tries to squeeze through an opening feet first and gets their head stuck, or when they put their head through an opening and cannot get back out.

Even if you do not think you have a problem area on your playground, it’s essential to get it inspected for possible head entrapment concerns. The CPSC states that if the space between opposing surfaces is more than 3.5 inches and below 9 inches, it could cause injury for a child.

Does the Playground Provide Sufficient Sun Cover?

When you think of all the possible playground related injuries that could happen, one of the most overlooked is proper protection from the sun. While most parents are conscious of whether or not their child is getting sunburnt or possibly facing heatstroke, lack of shade can become a problem on particularly hot days.

Depending on the material of your playground equipment, direct sunlight can cause it to heat up significantly and cause burns to a child’s skin. We recommend having ample shade provided for your playground area. Not only will this help with sunburn, but it will also help keep equipment cool to the touch.

Is Your Playground Safety Up to Par?

Now that you have a better understanding of playground safety, is your organization or business ready for an inspection or safety audit? At River Valley Recreation, we make sure your Pennsylvania, Delaware, or Maryland public playground is safe from any accidents and potential lawsuits. Our team can help you minimize any concerns and make sure your equipment is in full compliance with safety guidelines. Don’t be caught off guard—reach out to us today and take the first step to ensure the safety of your playground is top-notch!