Potential Playground Hazards

Published: 19th April 2010
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Springtime is finally here, which for most of us means the snow has (hopefully) melted, flowers are in bloom, and schoolchildren across the country are ready to reclaim their playgrounds! Before school administrators open those doors to the fresh air and release their pupils to the great outdoors, it's important to ensure that your school or district's playground has been thoroughly checked for potential safety hazards. Although playgrounds are a pivotal means of helping children develop their physical, emotional, social and intellectual skills, they also present certain dangers that school administrators need to be aware of. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 200,000 children are sent to the emergency room each year for playground-related injuries. Of these injuries, "45% are severe-fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations and amputations," while "about 75% of nonfatal injuries related to playground equipment occur on public playgrounds (most at school and daycare centers)."

While these statistics obviously reveal the safety hazards playgrounds pose, such injuries can also be costly - both for families and school districts. In 2001, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated the cost of playground-related injuries to be more than $11 billion. Due to the potential health and liability risks, school administrators need to be sure they educate their staff with quality school playground safety training. When executing your school playground safety training, two main areas to consider are supervision and maintenance & inspection.

80 percent of student injuries on school grounds occur on the playground, and of those playground-related incidents, lack of supervision is estimated to be a contributing cause of injuries 40% of the time. Supervisors should be especially watchful around the following equipment, on which most injuries occur: climbers, horizontal ladders (better known as monkey bars), swings and slides. In the interest of protecting children and schools, playground supervisors should follow some simple "ABC's" of supervision: Anticipation (being aware of the playground landscape and features), Behavior (active monitoring, as well as pre- and post-supervision activities), and Context (being aware of the specific needs of distinct playground environments).

When supervising playground activity, staff will notice that playground equipment usually falls into two main categories: stand-alone equipment (such as swings and climbers) and composite structures (where two or more components are linked, creating multiple play areas). All equipment, materials, play zones and surfaces should be checked regularly for potential hazards, and there are two major sources of guidelines regarding playground safety. The first is the Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines, and the second is the American Society for Testing and Materials standards for equipment and surfacing. While adherence to these guidelines and standards are voluntary, both are recognized by school safety regulations as the "Standard of Care" that should be followed in regards to school safety compliance.

SafeSchools, the nation's leading provider of online safety training for school employees, currently offers two expertly-authored playground safety training courses: Playground Supervision and Playground Maintenance & Inspection. Playground Supervision reviews the "ABC's" of playground supervision in-depth, presents key elements relating to awareness of playground features, identifies successful behaviors of an effective supervisor and covers procedures and policies such as injury reporting, etc. Playground Maintenance & Inspection covers the most common playground hazards for maintenance staff, detailing nationally-recognize standards for playground equipment and maintenance. The course details fall surface criteria and use zones for various apparatus, and additionally reviews maintenance inspection checklists.

SafeSchools also offers a variety of other school employee training courses covering School Health Safety, School Violence Prevention, School Safety Programs and many more topics. SafeSchools helps school administrators with risk management, school safety regulations and school safety compliance.

Donna McMullin is the author of this article on Online Safety Training.

Find more information about Online Safety Course here.

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