Playground Safety

photo credit: Daniel James

One of the best places where children and their parents can get together for some outside fun and exercise is the local playground.

There are many wonderful parks and playgrounds in Michigan that can provide hours of entertainment to children and their parents. However, every playground has a risk for injury and sometimes death and it’s important that parents understand the risks involved with playgrounds, either at a park or in your own background, to avoid preventable injuries.

Consider these statistics from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):

  • In the United States, a child is injured on a playground every 2.5 minutes.
  • More than 200,000 children each year are treated in emergency departments for playground-related injuries.
  • The most prevalent diagnoses are fractures (39 percent), lacerations (22 percent), contusions/abrasions (20 percent), and strains/sprains (11 percent).
  • In the last 10 years, CPSC received reports of 147 deaths of children younger than 15 that involved playground equipment.

photo credit: Steve Karsch

You can make a playground safe and entertaining by being aware of the potential hazards and following some simple safety guidelines.

Most important is adult supervision. Always supervise your child and be aware of the surroundings. It’s very easy to get distracted in conversation and assume that your child is safe. Statistics estimate that almost half of the injuries during playground trips could have been avoided with proper supervision.

Each time you visit a playground, check the surface under the equipment. The surface should be free of rocks, debris, sharp sticks and standing water. Any of these obstacles can cause a running child to trip and fall.

Look for a playground that has a separate play area for preschool children. Preschool and school-aged children develop differently, so make sure your child is playing on age-appropriate equipment.

Climbing equipment with interior bars (e.g., monkey bars, jungle gyms, etc.) are unsuitable for playgrounds. Even a slight fall onto a metal bar can cause serious head, extremity or genital injury.

Certain playground equipment can become extremely hot during the day. Be sure to check the temperature of all equipment before allowing your child to explore.

Be aware of what your child is wearing to the playground. Strings on your child’s clothing can cause accidental strangulation if a string is caught on the equipment.

Don’t forget: just because we live in Michigan, your little one can get sunburned or become dehydrated while playing outside; bring sunscreen and lots of water.

The good news is that Michigan has improved the safety of our playgrounds in schools, parks and childcare facilities. The National Program for Playground Safety grades each state on the overall safety of their playgrounds. Michigan’s grade for 2000 was a D- and has since improved to a B in 2004.

So get outside and enjoy the fresh air, sunshine and safety of your neighboring playgrounds!

– Linda Reetz, R.N., B.S.N., Director of Emergency Services, Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak

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