Here in Orange County, California we experience balmy temperatures even in the middle of January-the envy of the rest of the country. Weekends are filled with sailing, beachcombing and if you have kids, the playground. However, many public play areas for children are potentially dangerous and parents must be aware of deficiencies.
Each year over 200,000 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for playground equipment related injuries. About 75% are from public playground s and the other ¼ are from home playground equipment. Also, about 15 children die each year, primarily due to falls. By far, this is number one injury with playgrounds. Even though protective surface materials are available, not all parks and schools can afford or know about the various types of materials.
In California each year, approximately 1, 000 children are hospitalized due to playground injuries.
Several reasons include poor surface material, swings too close together, head entrapment hazards and dangerous outdated equipment. The National Program for Playground Safety, NPPS, rates each state on their risk factors for playground safety. California has received a consistent grade of “b-” since 2000. If your child has had a personal injury due to negligence, don’t hesitate to call a personal injury attorney.
A new California bill, AB 1144 became effective as of January 1, 2008 and compliance is mandatory to all playgrounds that are open to the public. Until recently, the playgrounds were being built to older 1998 standards set for by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, (CPSC). Many material and safety enhancements have been developed since then and this new law is welcomed by childhood safety advocates.
Specifically, the bill provides much-needed standards for playground equipment, surface accessibility and impact, surface materials, engineered wood fibers and special equipment for age-appropriate equipment guidelines. Over 70% of playground accidents are due to falls, so specific material safety is detailed in the report guidelines. Use zones around the equipment should have certain levels of bark mulch, wood chips, sand and gravel at various depths, depending on the fall risk. It should be noted that sand that was previously used in sand box areas, crystalline silica was added to the list of toxic materials in 1998, so use of this material should not be in use.
Since playgrounds that were installed between 1994 and 1999 are exempt from this new law, so what can one do to prevent serious personal injury to your children and keep your community safe? Here are a few things:
Educate your children on proper usage of the play area equipment. Many falls occur when children are not using it correctly. Get local schools involved. Many PTA’s have guest speakers to educate the parents as well.
Check out local playgrounds before you bring your children to play. If you find any hard surfaces under and play equipment, contact your local parks and recreation department in your city. It is their responsibility to keep parks safe for the community.
Check for loose clothing and clothing strings placed around the child’s neck, as these could be a choking hazard if the strings catch on to any equipment.
Lastly and most importantly, always watch your children when they are playing. Your child may know all of the rules but many kids don’t!
For further safety tips and interactive games for younger children, visit www.playgroundsafety.org/ and look for “Sammy’s playground pointers”.
Let’s all get out there and enjoy our wonderful California sunshine-safely!