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Guest Column

Avoid danger during child's play

Published July 13, 2007


Summer is here, and kids are out in droves on the playground. Now is the peak time for swinging, sliding and rocking to their hearts' content.

But whether it's a playground at a local park or your own back yard, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, hundreds of thousands of children become injured every year, severely enough to visit the hospital. In addition, there are those who go to their own doctor or clinics, so the numbers are even higher.

There are national safety standards and guidelines for "public use" playgrounds parks, public and private schools, child care centers, and campgrounds, etc. and "home use" playgrounds (equipment at a single-family dwelling). The American Society for Testing and Materials publishes standards that are created by industry professionals, and the Consumer Products Safety Commission creates and publishes guidelines for public and home-use playgrounds. The standards and guidelines exist so that producers and owner/operators provide your children with safe play equipment.

But not all playgrounds pass the rigorous tests. In fact, out of 2,578 sites that I've inspected around the country, not one play area has passed! Lots of equipment has, but not one "playground."

So, what can you do? Here are some safety tips to keep those children from injury and death:

Backyard play areas

Install soft, impact-resilient surface material like mulch, rubber chips or sand. Some unacceptable surfaces are grass, concrete and asphalt.

Remove swings and trapeze bars that hang from beams of "upper body components" (monkey bars, for example). Kids can fall onto the swings and either become injured or killed.

Maintain the equipment according to the instructions.

Public play areas

Use only the equipment that is appropriate for your child's age. You may think he or she is capable, but there are age range signs or labels for specific reasons, including their physical, motor, cognitive and intellectual capabilities. They may not be able to use a climber because they are not old or strong enough yet, so keep them off.

Check that the playground has surfacing material to fall on, such as mulch, sand, rubber mats or "poured in place" rubber to minimize the likelihood of injuries or deaths. For backyard and public-use playgrounds, always supervise your children.

This means being out there on the playground with them, keeping them in your sight.

If children become injured, you need to be there to assist them and call for help.

Your presence also thwarts abductions and keeps the kids from getting out of hand.

Also, never use a playground that is not fenced in and is close to a body of water or a road. If it is within 200 feet of these hazards and not fenced, keep out. Keep in mind that the fence should not be one your kids can climb on, such as a chain-link fence.

Scott Burton is a certified playground safety inspector in the Tampa Bay area.



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[Last modified July 12, 2007, 08:39:56]

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