Summer Safety: Don’t forget playground safety
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on June 17th, 2010
Playgrounds are fun – at home, in a public park, at camp or on private property, but at the same time, they can be dangerous.
We here at MyPhillyLawyer.com don’t want to ruin your summer, but it’s a good idea to at least be thinking about playground safety at this time of year. You want to be sure to protect your families while they are playing outdoors and at the same time protect yourself from liability if you have home playground equipment in your yard.
About 200,000 children under 14 years of age are treated in emergency rooms annually in the U.S. for injuries sustained on playgrounds, according to statistics available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Forty-five percent of those injuries are severe, according to the CDC, including fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations, and amputations.
Astonishingly, some 75% of non-fatal playground injuries happen on public playgrounds, including at schools and daycare centers, the CDC said.
Here’s a frightening statistic – 147 children ages 14 and younger died from playground-related injuries including strangulation and falls from 1990 to 2000, the latest years that statistics were available, according to the CDC. Most of those deaths – 70% of them – occurred on home playground equipment.
The numbers are quite sobering.
But playground injuries can be prevented through good design, careful oversight and foresight.
Places to be extra careful:
*Most public playground injuries occur on climbing equipment, according to the CDC statistics.
*On homer playgrounds, most injuries occur on swing sets.
*Playgrounds in low-income neighborhoods are more prone to causing injuries due to a lack of maintenance, according to the CDC. Rusty equipment and inadequately padded surfaces where children can fall and get hurt are the biggest culprits.
The National Program for Playground Safety offers some helpful safety hints for parents
to keep your children S.A.F.E.:
Supervision from adults is present, but ropes and strings on clothing that could get caught in playground equipment and cause accidental asphyxiation are not allowed.
All kids must play on playground equipment that’s designed for their ages. Don’t let smaller children use equipment meant for older children, which will be dangerous for toddlers. Be sure to keep children in areas of the playground that are appropriate for their ages.
Falls to surfaces are cushioned. Almost 70% of playground injuries happen when children fall from equipment onto surfaces that are not protected and cushioned, according to the group. Surfaces should be padded well with hardwood fiber/mulch, pea gravel, sand and synthetic materials such as poured-in-place, rubber mats or tiles, the NPPS said. Playground surfaces should never be made from concrete, asphalt, grass, blacktop, packed dirt or rocks.
Equipment is safe. Carefully check to make sure the playground equipment, at home or in a public playground, is anchored safely in the ground and is in good condition. Watch for protruding and rusty bolts and materials and be sure that there are no parts that are missing.
Injuries can happen in many ways on playgrounds, from falls to collisions with equipment or other children, clothing that’s caught in equipment or pinches from equipment that can catch a child’s hand, foot or hair, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
As a parent and property owner, you need to minimize the risks of anyone being injured on equipment in your back yard.
Playground lawsuits definitely happen, and you certainly don’t want to be sued for liability if someone is injured at your home.
So how do you avoid being sued in the first place?
Here’s a list of 10 ways to avoid playground lawsuits, from Maryland Materials, which sells and installs playground equipment:
- Read and follow the official playground safety guidelines and rules that came with your equipment.
- Have your playground inspected and approved by a Certified Playground Safety Inspector to ensure that it meets all codes and requirements for safe use.
- Be sure that the correct cushioning materials have been installed around the equipment to protect from injuries caused by falls.
- Ensure that the playground is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act to protect you from ADA lawsuits.
- Document everything that you do in building your playground, from researching it to having it installed to maintaining it. Thorough records will show how well you have planned and maintained your facility.
- Buy quality equipment in the first place that uses safe designs, good materials and that has a good reputation for safe playground equipment.
- Don’t install or use wooden playground equipment due to long-term concerns about waterproofing chemicals in the wood and because of maintenance issues. Wood over time will splinter, causing potential injuries.
- Supervise, supervise, supervise. Be sure that children on your playground equipment are constantly supervised so you can help prevent injuries.
- Install signs with hours of operation, age limits, trespassing warnings, as well as signs that say that adult supervision is recommended. These signs make it clear to anyone using the equipment that there are rules that must be followed.
- Lock the playground to prevent entry by non-authorized persons when it is not in use. Install a fence around the playground to protect you from liability, as well as signs to deter trespassers.
It’s summer – a time to enjoy, relax and have fun.
Be sure that your home playground equipment, or the equipment where your kids are playing away from home, is safe, secure and hassle-free.
Protect yourself from legal liability by being a good steward of your playground.