Land Connections  

This mailer has been provided as an avenue to disperse information pertinent to public agencies and the landscape architecture profession in hopes of fostering greater understanding and collaboration. Topics address issues that affect the built environment within which we live.


An Overview of Playground Safety Measures

"If we don't stand up for children, then we don't stand for much", Marian Wright Edelman

Playgrounds are often a child's favorite place to visit outside of the home. A well designed playground fosters healthy exercise, imaginative play, social interaction, a sense of exploration and a never ending supply of giggles and laughter. As these opportunities are created however, innate risks and hazards are also created. The challenge a designer faces is to reduce the number and severity of playground hazards while providing essential risk taking activities. (The difference between a risk and hazard is described later in this article.) Below is a synopsis of a few important playground safety topics:

Playground Safety Statistics- logoEach year there are an estimated 220,000 playground related injuries in the United States alone. These injuries range from minor injuries with no long term residual effects to seriously debilitating injuries and even death. Seventy six percent (76%) of these accidents occur on public playgrounds with seventy nine percent (79%) of these injuries specifically involving a fall. Falls are the most common injuries reported on public playgrounds. Other injuries include impacts with stationary and moving equipment (11%) and entanglement, entrapment, crushing and laceration type injuries (10%). The most common cause of fatalities on playgrounds is entanglement of loose clothing, strings or ropes. There are many factors that contribute to injuries; the two most significant factors however are related to improper use/poor supervision (40%) and improper maintenance (44%). As depressing as the numbers are, careful planning and maintenance can greatly reduce the possibility and probability that serious injuries will occur and will limit the severity of playground accident consequences.1

Playground Hazards - Risk in the playground is essential for children's growth, creating challenges which allow children opportunities to succeed and/or fail based on individual reasoning and choices. Hazards on the other hand are items or situations that a child is not expected to comprehend, see or foresee. As an example of this, a child may evaluate the risk involved with climbing an arch ladder to a raised platform and may, or may not choose to take this route. This child however is not expected to assess the rungs for head entrapment hazard probability related to the rung spacing.

Common hazards found within the playground that need to be assessed and prioritized include:

  • Crush and shearing points
  • Entanglement and impalement
  • Entrapment
  • Sharp points, corners and edges
  • Suspended hazards
  • Tripping hazards
  • Recycled tires2

Regulations & Standards- logo .. .Currently there are no federal laws regulating playground safety. There are however voluntary standards and guidelines that are commonly adhered to. These publications are the Public Playground Safety Handbook by the CPSC and the ASTM F1487-07 standard. These two documents address playground safety related to playground design, surfacing, equipment specifications, hazards and maintenance. The State of California is one of the few states that have playground safety laws. The above mentioned publications were actually adopted and are considered mandatory by the State of California as found in Title 22, Division 22, Chapter 22-Safety Regulations for Playgrounds. The State of California is currently the only State that has mandated playground inspections.

Playground Inspections - At the time of installation most playgrounds are compliant with national standards and guidelines. Over time however, playgrounds age, they are abused and vandalized and playground standards change, yet, children continue to play. In order to prevent injuries on a long-term basis, continued maintenance and inspections must occur. Initial audits and inspections should be completed by a certified playground inspector (CPSI) to determine priority ratings for each hazard. A CPSI should also be consulted when standards change, when significant repairs or replacements occur, when new equipment is installed and prior to beginning a risk management plan.

Conclusion - Playground accidents will happen regardless of any attempt made to eliminate danger in the playground environment. Playground safety measures are not designed to limit play activities, creativity or to eliminate risk, but, where feasible to minimize serious injuries. If your existing playground is due for an assessment or if you have a newly constructed playground in need of a final assessment feel free to call us at 209.571.1765 or use the e-mail provided below.

    1-NPSI Curriculum Committee - Syllabus for the Certification Course for Certification Course for Playground Safety Inspectors. National Playground Safety Institute. V 1.2009.

    2-U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Public Playground Safety Handbook. CPSC. Bethesda, MD. 2010.

O'Dell Engineering

The next time you need a Landscape Architect on your project, consider O'Dell Engineering's Landscape Architecture Department.

Services include:

  • Park and Playground Design
  • Recreational Facility Design
  • Site Planning
  • Streetscape Design
  • Urban Design
  • Commercial Design
  • 3-D Visualizations
  • Graphic Design
  • Arborist Consulting
  • Playground Inspection



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  • Trees & the Urban Environment Part II
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Author: Chad Kennedy, Landscape Architect

This informational article provided by O'Dell Engineering - 1165 Scenic Drive, Suite A, Modesto CA 95350