Any parent, nanny, teacher, teacher’s aide or day care center will tell you that children love playtime, and the playground is their favorite place to play. But how well do you or any of these aforementioned officials know playground safety? Do you know what precautions are mandated to help prevent serious and even fatal injuries in playground areas? After all, something as harmless as play time can unfortunately have very dangerous results if not properly monitored.
When you take children to the playground, you will obviously not have to micromanage their activities. However, you should still make a proactive inspection of the area when you are with them. Take your standard play set for example. Is there any potential trip or snag hazards? Is the equipment secure, and does it have adequate fastenings?
Most people do not take into consideration the play area’s surfacing. Although the most common surface is sand, this offers certain risks such as pet waste and sharp debris that becomes hidden underneath. Cement, asphalt and natural grass are not appropriate surfaces because they do not possess any shock absorbency, which is important if a child falls. Shock absorbency helps cushion a fall and will result in less serious injuries than a hard, unforgiving surface.
Take a look at some of the following statistics from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):
- There are approximately 200,000 children who go to the emergency room for playground-related injuries each year
- Between 2001 to 2008, there were nearly 2,700 incidents reported to the CPSC for playground equipment-related injuries, and nearly half of those injuries were falls
With numbers like these, parents, nannies, and other careers should never go to the extremes of padding their child from head-to-toe, but they should be an active participant in their child’s playtime. After taking a closer look at the play area’s equipment and reporting any potential hazards to the playground maintenance officials, take a look at the surfacing. The CPSC recommends only the following ground covers in any play area:
- Wood chips
- Non CCA-treated wood mulch
- Shredded or recycled rubber mulch
- Pea gravel
- ASTM F1992 tested surfaces, including bonded surfaces and engineered wood fiber
The CPSC also encourages the integration of rubber mats in high traffic areas. This includes areas where loose surfaces can easily become indented or unequal. Areas of concern typically constitute spaces underneath slide landings or beneath swing sets. Another recommendation is the use of borders to help contain the loose fill.
High traffic areas always need to be maintained on a regular basis. The best way to do this is to mark on all equipment posts where the bare minimum of loose materials should reach at all times in the play area.
If you are planning on creating a play space in your back yard or community area, the CPSC has some additional guidelines to take into consideration to protect your children:
- Plan ahead by using 25 percent more materials for wood mulch, sand and other similar soft, compressible infill in each installation. Compression can occur from exposure to the elements and frequent use). For example, lay down 12 inches of loose material instead of the 9 inches initially required
- Ensure adequate drainage is available to help preserve the life of the infill
- Since rubber mulch does not compress but can get displaced during play, be sure to install it at a 6 inch depth
- Rake the material to keep it even to at least the minimum markings you made on the equipment posts throughout the playground
- When using mats, keep them below or completely level with surfacing, which will prevent tripping hazards
Safety enables your child to play to their heart’s content while you relax and not have to worry about any potential risks. Direct Rubber Mulch is a proud green company providing 100 percent recycled rubber products such as loose rubber mulch, flexible borders, and playground mats. Recycled rubber has many applications for residential and commercial landscaping, but the most common use of our products playground surfacing. Place your playground rubber product order by calling us at 877-884-3660, or visit us online!