Play is an important part of childhood, and every child needs a safe place to play. A playground should allow children to develop progressively and test their skills by offering a series of graduated challenges. These challenges should be appropriate for age-related abilities and should be ones that children can perceive and choose to undertake. However, children can be seriously injured or killed in a play environment. Each year in the U.S., 20,000 children are seriously injured, and approximately 20 children die as a result of injuries sustained on a playground.
A safe and appropriate playground, along with safe supervision and maintenance practices, can be a n important part of risk-management in an effort to reduce playground-related injuries and deaths. The following recommendations pertaining to playground safety are made by the National Playground Safety Institute.
Age-Appropriate Equipment and Design: Children differ dramatically not only in physical size and ability, but also in their cognitive and social skills. Therefore, age-appropriate playground designs should accommodate those differences with regard to the type, scale, and layout of play equipment. Preschool age children (2-5 years) should play on equipment made especially for them, and school-age children (5-12 years) should have equipment designed for their size and abilities.
Supervision: Children should be supervised by an attentive adult while on the playground. Seats and tables should be placed so adults are facing the play area.
Surfacing: 70% of serious playground injuries and deaths are a result of falls to the surface. Therefore, the playground surface should be of an impact-absorbing type of material approved by the CPSC and ASTM, and be of an adequate depth. These materials and appropriate depths are outlined in the Consumer Product Safety Commission "Handbook on Public Playground Safety."
Maintenance: Providers of outdoor play facilities, in order to comply with their legal duties, should ensure that a comprehensive and documented inspection program is in place. This includes public as well as private playgrounds.
There are three recommended categories of inspection as recommended by the Consumer Produce Safety Commission and should cover the playground as a whole including facilities such as fencing, gates and seating as well as the play equipment:
- Daily check
- More detailed checks every 3 months
- A full certified inspection at intervals not exceeding 12 months
A Playground Audit, conducted by a Certified Playground Safety Inspector, provides the playground owner with a fully comprehensive report of the condition of the play area, play equipment and surfacing and ancillary items, prioritized recommendations for necessary repairs which will maintain the play area and its equipment in full working order, and will assist the client with exercising their duty of care to users.