Playground Guide Part 10

Safety Playground Standards

When selecting play equipment, you want the manufacturer to comply with the appropriate playground standard in your area. For Canadian residents, this is the Canadian Standards Association CAN/CSA·Z614. However, many large municipalities have their policies that may extend or exceed the requirements of the CAN/CSA·Z614. CPSC’s Handbook for Public Playground Safety and American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Standard F1487 are the appropriate standards for the United States residents. However, some states have referenced either the CPSC, ASTM or both standards in their required regulations. Ask your supplier for a letter stating compliance with the appropriate standard/guideline for all the playground equipment to verify that the equipment meets the various technical requirements.

Playground standards provide details on designing, testing, layout, installation, accessibility, and play equipment installation. Many manufacturers meet the minimum requirements of the standards. Still, despite this, there is a great variety of differences in quality, craft, design, aesthetics, and service between various playground manufacturers. Your Henderson Recreation representative can help illuminate these differences for you.

General Playground Safety Tips

Playgrounds provide ample opportunities for children to exercise, socialize, challenge themselves, and play creatively and imaginatively. However, as with all life, injuries can and will occur. Frequently there can be just a little bump on the head or a bruise. Still, in very few cases, an injury can be severe enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room in a hospital. Deaths on playgrounds are rare and most often involve some form of strangulation. You can help prevent many of the more severe injuries by supervising children. Allow them to only play on playground equipment that meets current playground standards, including resilient safety surfacing under and around the playground.

One study conducted in Canada showed playgrounds that meet current standards could reduce injuries. The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto demonstrated that 86 schools that replaced old noncompliant play equipment with new CSA·Z614 compliant playgrounds reduced playground related injuries by 49%. Note that the CSA and ASTM playground standards have been harmonized and are therefore very similar. Researchers estimated that 520 playground related injuries were prevented during the four-year study period. 

Here are some simple tips to help keep children safe on playgrounds:

Supervise, supervise, supervise! But remember that supervision is not necessarily intervention. Play must be child initiated. Watch closely to make sure they use features appropriate to their age (look for signage or stickers on play equipment for the age appropriateness of each piece). Stay close and attentive as you never know when you may be needed and only intervene at such time. Supervise younger children more closely as they lack the physical skills of older children and do not perceive the outcome of the risks they sometimes take.

Show children how to play safely by following simple rules. No pushing, roughhousing, or throwing objects. Wait their turn and sit down on slides with their feet first. Don’t run in front of swings or hang out at the bottom of a slide. No jumping off swings while in full motion—no climbing on the top of tube slides.

Remove all scarves, bicycle helmets, and drawstrings on coats. Do not tell them to tie any skipping ropes or any other flexible ropelike material to the playground. Leave bicycles, skateboards, scooters, and other objects outside of the resilient safety surfacing. Pick up any foreign objects you see in the playground and discard in the garbage. Use neck warmers, not scarves.

In the United States, it is estimated (name the source) there is are over 200,000 playground related injuries that result in a trip to hospital emergency rooms. Supervision and engaging with children at the appropriate time can help prevent playground related injuries. Creating a written document on playground safety rules and engaging children and supervisors to follow those rules will help prevent injuries. 

Here are some simple tips for adults:

Be present in the playground area and be attentive to kids playing, keeping them in sight always. Avoid chatting, texting, calls, and other distracting behavior while watching and supervising children.

Use rules to prevent roughhousing, pushing, horseplay, and other inappropriate behaviors; timeouts or loss of playgrounds privileges are examples of disciplining poor behavior.

Be aware of hazards such as broken equipment. Remove skipping ropes or other things tied on the playground, removing drawstrings on clothes, loose hardware, and foreign or sharp objects in the resilient surface.

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At Henderson Playgrounds, we have been Putting Children First since 1971 by building and designing superior commercial playgrounds for all ages.