Spring has arrived! This means warm afternoons, longer evenings, and the perfect time to take children to local playgrounds. Playgrounds provide the opportunity to enjoy quality time with friends and family, especially if the S.A.F.E. playground injury prevention framework is followed.
The National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) provides us with the acronym S.A.F.E. as a tool to remember the four principles for properly maintaining a safe playground atmosphere. While playgrounds are inherently safe places, quite often children suffer unintentional injuries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries per year. According to the National Safety Council, nearly 80% of reported playground injuries occur from falls.
Perhaps the most important principal of the S.A.F.E. playground injury prevention protocol is SUPERVISION. Parents, caretakers, guardians and school staff are responsible for the well-being of the youth under their care. This requires a visual inspection of the playground equipment, removal of playground hazards and active monitoring of children to ensure that they play on age-appropriate equipment.
Inspection of equipment and supervision of children at play builds upon the APPROPRIATE ENVIRONMENT principal of the S.A.F.E. playground injury prevention framework. Children who play on equipment unsuitable for their size, strength, and decision-making abilities may be exposed to potential injury. We have all seen toddlers who want nothing more than to go down the “big kid slide.” Choosing an appropriate environment for outside play is a significant step to keeping children safe.
Even with proper SUPERVISION and a playground with an APPROPRIATE ENVIRONMENT, accidents can happen.
FALL SURFACING, the third principal of the S.A.F.E. playground injury prevention framework, is the literal and figurative catch-all for playground falls. When choosing a proper play area, it is important to inspect the fall surface materials. Proper fall surfacing provides a buffer for any child who falls from playground equipment. Sand, pea gravel, crumb rubber and other loose-fill materials provide a safe landing place for the inevitable falls that occur while a child is challenging their physical limits. If loose-fill materials are not available, unitary surface materials like rubber tile, poured-in-place and other artificial surfaces are sufficient. Concrete, asphalt, cement and dirt should not be used as fall surfacing for any playground.
Equipment repair and maintenance are also important in evaluating a S.A.F.E. play area. Without proper EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE, the final principal of the S.A.F.E. playground injury prevention framework, an adult cannot properly supervise. Even a seemingly appropriate environment can harbor a series of hidden hazards. According to the NPPS, nearly 60% of all injuries that result in litigation list “lack of maintenance” as the primary cause of injury. A fully functioning playground maintenance program keeps the play area, equipment and surrounding areas in safe condition. A proactive approach is preferred, particularly in maintaining adequate fall surfacing to absorb the shock of a child’s fall.
SUPERVISION, APPROPRIATE ENVIRONMENTS, FALL SURFACING and EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE work in tandem to provide lasting outdoor memories and prevent unintended trips to the emergency room. As you venture out onto local playgrounds this spring, remember that you can have F.U.N while adhering to the S.A.F.E. playground injury prevention protocols.
If your child has been injured on the playground due to faulty equipment or improper maintenance, the attorneys at Allen & Allen look forward to hearing about your unique situation. Call today for a free consultation at 866-388-1307.