Four key areas to significantly reduce the risk of injury
Play time for children is not break time for employees.
- Outside play time is a great change of scenery for the teachers and the children
- It should not be thought of as rest time for teachers
- Children are more excited and active when outside which increases the chances of injury
- If adult supervision decreases as child excitability increases…Accidents happen!
- Each play area should have an adult supervisor
- Playgrounds should not be set up with teacher sitting areas as this tends to minimize the importance of the need for supervision
- Caregivers should watch for child behavior that tends to lead to injuries
- Not paying attention to nearby swings
- Arguing over toys
- Children pushing other children
- Line battle
- Teacher supervisors must pay attention to keeping toddler children out of areas where older children are playing. A common playground injury includes children running into other children when a child less experienced in walking cannot get out of the way of a running 3 or 4 year old.
- Prior to heading to the playground a quick clothing check should take place. Things to look for: necklaces, drawstrings, earrings, loose belts, and un-tied shoes.
- Supervise child traffic at the end of the slides and in front of swing sets.
- Enforce proper use of equipment, for example: children should not be allowed to climb up the sliding surface
- Teachers should be stationed where they can see children in the crawl spaces and on the equipment.
- There should not be any areas where children can easily get out of sight of teachers as this increases the chance for abuse allegations.
Key components of supervision:
- An adult should enter the playground area before the children are allowed to enter the area.
- A quick inspection for any obvious, out of the ordinary hazards should take place prior to children being allowed onto the playgrounds.
- “Active” requires that monitoring children on the playground is intentional.
- Proper position: allows supervisor to see children from different angles, changing locations in the play area allows for closer supervision
- Scanning: supervisors should look up, down, left, right, over, and under to see all areas of the play environment
- Eye contact with children often can prevent unruly behavior that leads to injuries
2) Age appropriate equipment design
- Signs in the play area will help reinforce teacher instruction on age appropriate play equipment
- Resist the temptation to move advanced younger children to older group play areas
- If possible, fences should separate age appropriate play areas from each other
Equipment for children aged 2 to 5 years should be separate from play equipment for children 5 to 12 years old
- Are intended to allow children to change direction and get off the equipment if they want to
- Should have appropriate guardrails
- Minimum of 38” high for school age children 5 – 12
- Minimum of 29” high for preschool age children 2 – 5
Platforms on equipment:
- Equipment design and supports for the equipment should prevent children from climbing on the outside of the structure
Designs and supports:
- General rule of thumb is that all openings in guardrails, between ladder rungs, and similar openings should be less than 3.5” or more than 9”
- Openings between those ranges can allow a child’s head to become trapped in the space
Cautions about head entrapment
- Fall zones should be created due to the common event of children falling
- Proper fall zones should not allow for less teacher supervision
- Supervision helps prevent falls
- Fall zone guidelines are established to prevent life threatening head injuries
- It's a matter of physics. The higher the fall and harder the surface, the worse the injury. ~ E. Henzy
Height + children + gravity = falls
- Preschool children should play on equipment no higher than 6 feet
- School aged children (5 – 12) should play on equipment no higher than 8 feet
Equipment height recommendations
- Each year more than 15 children die in playground related incidents
- An estimated 205,850 playground related injuries result in hospital emergency room visits
- Approximately 75.8% of playground injuries in 1999 occurred on playgrounds designed for public use
- Fractures are most commonly reported injuries accounting for 39% of all injuries
- Approximately 80% of reported fractures involve the wrist, lower arm, or elbow
- Approximately 79% of injuries that occurred involved falling from playground equipment onto the ground below the equipment
Playground injury statistics
- Includes wood chips, bark mulch, and engineered wood fibers
- Should be replaced over time
- May allow for bugs and weed growth
- Requires retaining structures
- Should be shifted regularly to provide maximum protection from fall impacts
- Includes sand, pea gravel, and shredded tires
- Sand has problems when wet and with floor abrasions
- Pea gravel has problems with curious children placing stones in various body cavities
- Shredded tires are inconsistently processed in the past so problems with clothes stains arose
Material TypesLoose fill material
- Particles are bonded together through heating or cooling processes or with the use of a bonding agent or adhesive
- These materials are costly to install and over time require costly maintenance
- Depth of material needed depends on height of equipment
- Recommendations include:
- 9 to 12 inches of wood chips for equipment 7 to 8 feet high
- 6 inches minimum of wood chips for equipment 6 feet high and lower
Shock absorption characteristics
- Use a straight ruler pushed into the material to measure depth
- Feel the material move under your feet, if there is no “give” you need more surfacing
- Consider 8” PVC connected to contain loose fill material
4) Equipment maintenance
- Broken or missing parts
- Protruding bolts or fixtures
- Dangerous gaps that can catch drawstrings or entrap body parts
- Gaps between 3.5 inches and 9 inches as they create special hazards
- Rust on metal parts
- Splinters on wood pieces
- Cracks and holes in plastic equipment
Inspect playground equipment for the following:
- Designate people responsible for routine and more thorough inspections
- Use checklists to mark areas inspected and take notes for future maintenance concerns
- Keep files of inspections with dates which will provide for defense of some claims
*Markel Specialty is a business division of Markel Service, Incorporated, the underwriting manager for the Markel affiliated insurance companies.