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Playground Safety

Each year 250,000 children under the age of 15 get hurt on playground equipment and are treated in emergency rooms. About 10 – 20 children actually die from their injuries. 75% of these injuries occur at schools and public playgrounds. Falls cause about 75% of the injuries. Children fall from heights such as monkey bars, fall off equipment, and trip over equipment. Other injuries are caused by cuts from sharp edges, loose or exposed nails and screws, and from blows from swings. Use these tips to determine if your child’s play areas are as safe as possible.

  • The best way to prevent serious head injuries is to have an impact-absorbing surface. This is especially important under and around swings and slides. These include rubber outdoor mats, sand (10 inches deep), and wood chips (12 inches deep). Sand and wood chips need refilling to keep the correct depth and weekly raking to stay soft.
  • To prevent injuries from falls, platforms should not be more than 8 feet above the ground and should have 38 inch guard rails.
  • Vertical and horizontal spaces should be less than 3.5 inches wide or more than 9 inches wide so that little heads do not get stuck.
  • Equipment should be free of objects that stick out, such as bolts and nails, sharp edges, hooks that do not close all the way (S hooks), and pinch points.
  • Swings need to be clear of all other equipment and yard obstructions (trees, fences) a distance equal to twice the height of the swing. The seat should be made out of soft material such as rubber or canvas. Make sure open hooks, “S” hooks, on swing chains are closed to form an “8”.
  • Slides should have a platform with rails at the top for children to hold. The sides of the slide should be 4 inches high.
  • Make sure the area at the base of the slide is clear of debris and that the safer surfaced area extends from the exit of the slide a distance equal to the length of the slide plus 4 feet.
  • Make sure slides are plastic and are in the shade or away from afternoon sun.
  • Make sure the play equipment is the right size for the children playing on it.
  • Play equipment should be installed at least 6 feet from any barrier, such as a tree or wall, and should be securely anchored to prevent tipping. The concrete anchors should be buried below the surface of the dirt and beneath the full depth of the impact absorbing ground cover. Swings and slides require more space as mentioned above.
  • Children need to be supervised carefully while playing.
  • Maintain all equipment.