A recent survey of playgrounds in 26 states and the District of Columbia, conducted by the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and US Public Interest Research Group (PIRC), found that:
79 percent of playgrounds did not have adequate protective surfacing.
58 percent of playgrounds had climbers or slides higher than six feet.
49 percent of playgrounds with swings violated one or more recommended safety guidelines. The survey illustrated that most older playgrounds, and even a few built recently, fail to meet many basic safety standards.
The good news, say CFA and PIRC, is that most equipment being sold today for new playgrounds is significantly safer than what was available just five years ago.
The following checklist can help you evaluate the general safety of your local playground.
Is there a lack of protective surfacing under or around play equipment?
Hard, paved surfaces such as concrete and asphalt, as well as grass, soil, and hard-packed dirt are not acceptable for use under and around play equipment. Acceptable materials include wood chips, shredded bark mulch, sand, and pea gravel when installed and maintained at depths of at least nine to 12 inches, and provided that they are not wet or compacted. Shredded tires can also meet resiliency requirements when spread at a depth of at least six inches.
Are pieces of play equipment too close together? Is there a lack of protective surfacing where children might fall? The area under and around a piece of play equipment should have protective surfacing and be free of other equipment or obstacles onto which a child might fall.
Is any equipment too high above ground? The highest climbing rung or platform on climbing equipment or the height of the top of a slide, for example, should not exceed four feet above the protective surfacing when designed for preschool-age children and six feet above the protective surfacing for school-age children.
Do elevated play surfaces such as platforms, bridges, walkways, and ramps lack adequate guardrails or protective barriers to prevent falls?
Are swings too heavy, too close together, or too close to support structures? Are swing seats made of wood, metal, or any other heavy, rigid materials?
No swing structures should be attached to other play equipment or composite structures. No more than two swing seats should be suspended in the same section of the support structure. Infant or tot seats should not be suspended in the same section of a swing structure as regular swing seats.