As backdrop to some of the most memorable moments of childhood, school
playgrounds represent both outlets for youthful energy as well as places
where imagination thrives. When the recess bell rings, children stream
out of the classroom and onto the playground where swings, slides, and
jungle-gyms await. Yet, all too often, the equipment installed by schools
around the country is defective or dangerous, resulting in injuries and
According to the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), each
200,000 children are taken to the emergency room with severe injuries resulting from playground-related
accidents. Tragically, 15 of those injuries will be fatal. Particularly
at-risk are children who are aged between 5 to 9 and the injuries that result
cost billions of dollars per year, some of which is borne by taxpayers if the child
is covered under Medicaid or Tricare.
Top Safety Hazards
Though many factors may contribute to a child becoming injured while using
recreational equipment, some hazards are found more often than others.
For example, improper surfacing material under playground equipment is
the leading cause of playground injuries. This is due to the fact that
nearly 80 percent of all accidents on playgrounds result from falls. Thus, the surface of
a playground should be soft enough to cushion falls and schools should
consider replacing concrete or grass playgrounds with wood chips or shredded rubber.
Another dangerous area on playgrounds are places where a child’s
head or limbs may become entrapped. These spaces are typically openings
between climbers, at the top of slides, and between platforms. Head entrapments
are particularly dangerous due to the possibility of asphyxiation. Relatedly,
when there is improper spacing between pieces of equipment, play areas
can quickly become overcrowded. Swings and merry-go-rounds are particularly
“hot zones” where insufficient equipment spacing can lead
to injuries due to the inherent motion-oriented nature of the structures.
Preventing Playground Injuries
An immediate action that schools can take to prevent playground injuries
is to increase supervision of play areas. Doing so can make a real difference, as over
40 percent of all playground injuries are directly related to lack of supervision.
Schools can also enhance the ability of playground supervisors to spot
dangers by designing play areas so that it is easy to observe the children
at play. Moreover, while playground space may be at a premium for many
schools, it is important to consider separating play areas for younger
and older children, particularly at elementary schools where abilities
run a wide spectrum depending on age.
For preschool-aged children, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
has singled out the dangers of chain and cable walks, seesaws, and vertical
sliding poles as being particularly hazardous. Lastly, proper maintenance
of playgrounds can prevent many injuries and should undergo yearly reviews.
There should be no missing, broken, or worn components, all parts should
be stable with no indications of loosening, and all hardware should be
secured. Taking these steps should significantly decrease the probability
of a child being harmed while playing.
Parents deserve peace-of-mind when sending their children to school. If
your child has been injured due to faulty playground equipment, contact
The Pittman Firm today to ensure accountability and to secure appropriate