Safety on the Playground

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By John McLeish

More than 200,000 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for playground-related injuries every year, according to Kids Health. Whether it is a broken arm, a cut needing stitches or a concussion, many of these incidents are absolutely preventable with proper supervision and regulation of playground equipment.

Kids are adventurous and like to test their limits; this is compounded by a lack of understanding of the dangers that can occur. Having an adult present to supervise playground activities can greatly decrease the chance of injuries. Adults can help prevent injuries by making sure children use playground equipment properly and do not engage in behaviour that puts them at risk.

A proper playground environment can also decrease the chance that injury will occur. Playground surfaces should be thick (around 12 inches) and cushiony, in order to soften a fall if one occurs. Materials such as loosely packed wood chips, mulch, sand or rubber mats are great options.

Climbing structures and other playground toys should never be built on concrete or asphalt. Grass or dirt can also pose a threat, as weather conditions can make those areas slippery and dangerous.

The condition of the playground should be monitored constantly. Fallen branches, large pieces of garbage and other hazards can create a perilous situation for kids at play. The equipment and playground surface should also be checked regularly. Wear and tear is inevitable, and must be properly repaired before children are allowed to return to the playground. Again, pay particular attention to the surface covering the ground; it should always be approximately 12 inches thick, and may need to be replaced and repaired over time.

Finally, the playground should also be geared toward a certain age group; large equipment can cause problems for small kids, and vice versa. Older kids are also more likely to engage in risky behaviour on “little kids’” playgrounds. That’s something I’ve certainly witnessed in my many years as a personal injury lawyer in Toronto.

With proper supervision and maintenance, playgrounds can be safe and fun environments for kids and parents alike.

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