playground safety tips & resources

  1. Playgrounds are Meant to be Safe
  2. Playgrounds Pose Threat to Children
  3. Playing It Safe
  4. Warning about Wearing Bike Helmets on Playgrounds

Playgrounds Are Meant To Be Safe

Safe America

Playgrounds are meant to be fun and safe entertainment for children. Yet, each year more than 200,00 children visit the emergency room with injuries associated with playground equipment. The U.S. Product Safety Commission has come up with a few simple ways to ensure that your playtime is a safe time:

  1. Playground surfaces should have at least 12" of wood chips, mulch, sand or pea gravel or safety-tested rubber mats.
  2. To avoid collisions, swings should be spaced at least 24' part, and 30" from the supporting structure. Swing surfaces should extend, in back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar.
  3. All sliding equipment should have a platform so children can climb down if they become scared. There should be a bar across the top of the slide to force children to sit down before they slide.
  4. Be sure to check for dangerous hardware -open "SS hoods or protruding bolt ends, rusty chains, broken ladder rungs, or sharp points or edges.
  5. Never walk in front of kids on swings.
  6. Look for spaces that can trap kids, like openings in guardrails or between ladder steps. Make sure they measure no less that 3.5"or no more than 9".
  7. Be alert for tripping hazards such as concrete footings, tree stumps or rocks.
  8. All elevated surfaces over 30" should have guardrails to prevent falls.
  9. Children should never wear scarves or loose clothing that can get tangled in equipment.
  10. Finally, children should always be supervised on the playground!

The Safe America Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to injury prevention and the practice of good safety habits through the distribution of safety products and innovative educational programs. For more information call: 770-218-0071 or email:

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Playgrounds Pose Threat To Children

A majority of playgrounds in the United States pose hidden threats to children, according to the fifth nationwide investigation of public playgrounds conducted by the US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) and Consumer Federation of America (CFA). Researchers investigated 1,024 playgrounds in 27 states from March to May 2000.

The report states that each year approximately 170,100 children are injured seriously enough on public playground equipment to require emergency room treatment, and an average of 17 children die each year from playground injuries. Following are findings from the 2000 investigation:

* 80% of the 1,024 playgrounds lacked adequate protective surfacing, a decrease from the 87% that lacked protective surfacing in 1998. Nonetheless, protective surfacing is "the most critical safety factor" on playgrounds because approximately 75% of injuries result from falls.

* 31% of slides and climbing equipment did not have an adequate "fall zone" under and around them. Other equipment and obstacles in the fall zone posed hazards.

* 48% of playgrounds had climbers and 36% had slides whose height was greater than 6 feet, increasing the risk of injury.

* 13% of playgrounds with swings had swing seats made of wood, metal, or other rigid material, which increases the severity of injury if impact occurs.

* 27% of playgrounds with swings had some swings that were either too close together or too close to swing supports, increasing the risk that a child could be hit by a moving swing.

* 34% of playgrounds had improperly sized openings in the play equipment, which poses a head-entrapment hazard that can lead to strangulation.

* 38% of playgrounds had small gaps, open S-hooks, and other protrusions that posed clothing entanglement hazards; however, this represents a significant decline from 1996, when the percentage was 47%.

* 38% of playgrounds had unacceptable dangerous equipment, such as chain or cable walks, animal swings, individual climbing ropes, or exercise rings.

* 47% of all playgrounds had peeling, chipped, or cracking paint on equipment surfaces.

PIRG and CFA offer these recommendations to improve playground safety: 1) States and local governments should adopt CFA's "Model Law on Public Play Equipment and Areas," and 2) Parents, school administrators, child care providers, and parks personnel should evaluate their local playgrounds and work to make each playground safer.

US Public Interest Research Group; Consumer Federation of America. Executive summary. Playing it safe: June 2000. A fifth nationwide safety survey of public playgrounds. The report and state-specific datasheets and summaries are available at

This document was last updated on February 25, 2001.

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Warning against Wearing Bike Helmets on Playgrounds

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) warns of the dangers of children playing on playground equipment while wearing bicycle helmets. The CPSC is aware of 2 children who were strangled when their helmets became wedged. They died as a result of hanging from the helmet strap. Although helmets have proved to be effective in reducing the risk of head injury while riding bikes, these reports show that there is a hidden hazard of strangulation if the child wears a helmet while playing on playground equipment.

For further information from the CPSC about bike helmet safety, readers may call the CPSC's hotline at (800) 638-2772 or via the Web site at

This document was last updated on November 3, 1999.

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