Protecting children while they play should be the goal of anyone involved in the design and implementation of playgrounds. According to The National Program for Playground Safety, only 3 percent of public playgrounds assessed had full sun protection from the peak exposure hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; only 30 percent had partial shade. The remaining 67 percent of public playgrounds were exposed to full sun during the peak hours.
In addition to thinking of sun protection and shade, there are other factors that should be considered when it comes to building a playground. Did you know that, according to the website of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, many children ages 14 and younger are injured from equipment in a play area and end up having to visit the hospital for emergency treatment?
Some things to consider include:
- Potential falls
- Protection of elevated areas
- Head entrapment
- Edges and sharp points
Areas that are underneath play equipment areas should be free of other objects at least 6 feet in all directions. Both in the back and front of the swings, there should be twice the height of the bar that suspends the swing set. There should be at least nine feet of space between play structures if any of the structures are over 30 inches tall.
Ground surfaces beneath and around play equipment should contain, at minimum, 12 inches of mulch, wood chips, gravel (sand or pea), or mats made of rubber or faux-rubber materials that have gone through testing to ensure they are safe. Falls account for 80 percent of injuries in play spaces. There should also be no exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, or rocks.
Protected Elevated Areas
An area higher than 30 inches should have barriers or guardrails to protect children from falling.
Head Entrapment Spaces
Openings between rungs, rails, ropes that are part of cargo netting and bars should be less than 3.5 inches or larger than 9 inches, so no child’s head can get caught.
Edges and Sharp points
Equipment on the play area should be free of sharp points as well as a protruding bolt ends, “S” hooks, and other parts that could cause damage to a child.
Freedom From Sun Exposure
To prevent heat illness and overexposure to children taking certain medications, there should be areas of shade; using covers or shade structures can offer a respite from the sun as well as make the area more appealing. On hot days, the equipment may become hot to touch. Shade can avoid burns as well as discomfort.
Creating and designing safe play areas for children are a top concern. You can learn more at The National Safety Council or International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA). To find out more about solutions involving sun shades, book an appointment, or call 888.570.SAIL (7245).