Playground Injuries in Children

Play is an essential component of healthy development in children, and playgrounds provide an opportunity for children to develop motor, cognitive, perceptual and social skills. Unfortunately, playgrounds are often the sites of unintentional injuries.

Many children end up in hospital casualty department each year as a result of playground injuries. Many are severe, such as, broken or dislocated bones, concussions, and injuries to internal organs. The cases of fatal playground injuries is often strangulation by a lose drawstring or hood that gets caught on a climbing structure in a fall and chokes the child. Non-fatal injuries often occur in school playgrounds and public parks; fatal injuries are more likely to happen in the garden. Children age five through nine are most at risk.

What to do

  • Check the playgrounds in your neighborhood, both in parks and at schools.
  • Make sure the equipment is well-maintained and that there are energy-absorbing surfaces such as rubber mats, sand, pea gravel, or wood chips under the climbing structures and swings.
  • Check that the surfaces have become packed down or dispersed with use.
  • If the playground needs improvement, talk to the local parks department or the school head.
  • If necessary consider joining or organizing a group of citizens to tackle the problem. It is remarkable what people can do together.
  • Always supervise children when using playground equipment. Maintain visual and auditory contact.
  • Prevent unsafe behaviors like pushing, shoving, crowding and inappropriate use of equipment.
  • Ensure that children use age-appropriate playground equipment.
  • Maintain separate play areas for children under age 5.
  • At home, be sure that any playground equipment is sturdy and well-maintained.
  • Make sure that children take off all loose clothing before going to play, including drawstrings on hoods of jackets and sweatshirts.
  • Toddlers test their limits and learn new skills on the playground. Many sustain injuries on playground because of lack of balance and coordination; adult supervision is a must.
  • For those fearless toddlers who take physical risk, an adult should always monitor their activity on the equipment.

Playground Monitoring and Maintenance

Monitoring should consist of retaining documentation of daily/weekly inspection reports by the custodian, with noted deficiencies and copies of completed work orders to validate that the deficiencies have been corrected. Custodians should maintain accurate logs to verify inspections of play equipment.

DAILY INSPECTION: This should be a walk-through inspection, each morning, prior to the children’s arrival. The custodian should looking for overnight vandalism to the structure itself, or harmful debris on and under the structure, such as broken glass, syringes, etc. Does the groundcover require raking to ensure a resilient base to cushion falls? This walk-through should be logged, and action taken documented.

WEEKLY INSPECTION: The weekly inspection should be conducted by the custodian. It would entail checking for loose bolts, wearing on chains or swing seats, etc., and the general security of the structure. These weekly inspections should be logged, and the action documented.
If a weakness is identified in a structure and it cannot be immediately repaired, the equipment should be removed from service until repairs can be made.

YEARLY INSPECTIONS: Every year a comprehensive written report should be completed by a playground inspector, documenting the results of a detailed inspection performed. These reports will be made available to the authorities for implementing necessary repairs.