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Keeping playgrounds tear-free

A quick safety check of playground equipment can help prevent injuries and accidents.

At playgrounds, kids tend to focus on the fun of running, sliding, climbing and swinging. It's up to parents to think about safety.

Playground injuries send about 200,000 U.S. kids to the hospital each year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Although the majority of those injuries happen on public playgrounds, many occur at home. The most common injuries are from falls.

Check for safety

The CPSC recommends checking for these safety features before your kids swing, slide or climb:

  • Make sure play equipment is surrounded by safety-tested surfaces like wood chips, mulch, sand or pea gravel. These should be at least 12 inches deep. Mats made of rubber and rubber-like materials are also safe.
  • Check protective surfacing to make sure it goes out 6 feet in all directions from the play structures. Material under swings should go out twice the height of the swing's frame in back and front. So, a swing set that is 7 feet high should have 14 feet of surfacing material spread in front and in back of it.
  • Make sure spaces between ladder rungs and in guardrails measure less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches. This helps protect kids from getting trapped.
  • Check for sharp edges or points.
  • Make sure large play structures are at least 9 feet apart.
  • Check for tripping hazards like tree roots, stumps, concrete footings and rocks.
  • Check for unsafe hardware, such as bolt ends that stick out or open "S" hooks that could catch kids' clothes.
  • Look for rails on platforms and ramps.
  • Check the play area often. You want to make sure the equipment stays in good shape.
  • Watch over kids when they are on or near play equipment.
  • Report any equipment that isn't safe to the local park department or school office.

In your backyard

When putting in play structures at home, follow all of the safety tips listed above. Also follow these tips:

  • Swing sets should be secure and well-anchored to the ground.
  • Exposed parts that move should not pose a pinching or crushing hazard.
  • Parts that connect to the ground should not show rust, corrosion or deterioration.
  • Teach all kids to play safely. Teach them not to play close to a moving swing or to tie ropes to playground equipment.

reviewed 8/16/2019

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