Playing it Safe

With the weather finally conducive to outdoor play, expect more visits to the emergency rooms.

About a month ago my husband felt our swing set was no longer safe and didn’t want to take the risk of anyone getting hurt so he made a decision to take it apart. The day was an emotional one for me because it represented another chapter gone by in my children’s lives and it took me back to the day we took their cribs apart. But, it also pushed me to a little research about play safety.

According to the American Pediatrics Association, playgrounds build motor, gross, cognitive, perceptual and social skills.  But as my husband feared, these skills can lead to unintended injury and death.

The leading cause of playground equipment-related deaths is strangulation, accounting for 56 percent of fatalities, according to preventinjury.org. "And the majority of these deaths occur on home playgrounds," the site stated.

 I was shocked by the advice from the pediatrics association: “Never attach ropes, jump ropes, clotheslines, or pet leashes to playground equipment because children can strangle on them.”

Yikes! My kids always had ropes tied to their swing set.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 45 percent of playground-related injuries are severe fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations, and amputations.  About 75 percent of injuries related to playground equipment occur on public playgrounds. Most of these occur at schools and daycare centers.

Most people know to wear protective equipment when riding bikes, , using scooters and rollerblades, however, I thought it might prevent a few injuries this summer if I passed along some ways to decrease playground injuries:

  • Supervise the children and teach them not to push, shove or fight on the equipment and teach them not to walk in front or behind swings.
  • Decrease strangulation risk by not doing what my kids did with ropes. Tuck in drawstrings, take off necklaces, and use no purses or backpacks while playing. Make sure the children don’t twist the swings (Again: yikes! we all did that)
  • Make sure there is adequate cushion below and 6 feet surrounding the play area. Materials matter. Concrete, asphalt, and blacktop are unsafe and unacceptable, according to kidshealth.org. Grass, soil, and packed-earth surfaces are also unsafe because weather and wear can reduce their capacities to cushion a child's fall, according to the website.
  • Make sure children are playing on age-appropriate structures with their age group.
  • Make sure there are guardrails and protective barriers on elevated surfaces and ensure metal surfaces are not hot (I think this officially fails the Hopedale park slide)
  • Make sure all openings on equipment measure less than 3½ inches or they should be wider than 9 inches to prevent trapping of body parts
  • Make sure your home play structure is on even ground and is anchored firmly.
  • Take down play structures when there is evidence of tilting, rotting, broken pieces, or rusting.
  • Check equipment (and sand boxes) for splintery wood, loose or sharp hardware or glass and needles.

Hopefully by following these rules and by the work of the , Milford's eight playgrounds will be safer, have more handicap accessibility, and be more interactive. This also might just cut down on emergency room visits and prevent more kids from spending the summer in casts or covered in stitches.

Amy Leone June 19, 2011 at 08:06 PM
Thank you Lisa for great information. If anyone is interested in working with us creating safe playgrounds in milford with our focus on the fino field area please join myself and Tamara Palmer at 1pm tomorrow at the milford library/ granite room.


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