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Playground Playsets > Playground Design • Playground Safety

 
kids - playground You and your family won't be able to enjoy your backyard playground unless it is safe.  Your playground should be easily supervised and rules should be established regarding its use.  In addition, there are a few measures you can take during the building process to help ensure that your playground is safe.

First of all, be sure to locate your playground in an area that is not next to hard surfaces, like fences or walls on which a child could injure himself.  When building your playground, be sure to drive nails and set screws so they are flush with the wood surface.  Children can seriously injure themselves on nails and screws that stick out when they are playing on the equipment.  When you have finished building your structure, double-check nails and screws once again.  Even if they are driven into the wood during the building process, nails and screws can pop out.  You'll also want to double-check for nails or screws driven completely through boards that are sticking out on the other side.  If you do happen to notice some of these, you can clip the end off or grind it down so it's flush with the board.

Holes for anchor bolts should be countersunk so the heads and nuts are recessed.  Crimp hooks with pliers so that sharp edges are not exposed.  To prevent splinters, treat the entire surface with a child-safe wood preservative.

playground safety road sign Always be sure that the structures are securely mounted or anchored to the ground.  Depending upon the structure you build, you can do this in several ways — by staking it into the ground, by mounting it on a wood skid foundation, by fastening it to concrete footings, or by fastening it with auger anchors.

Choose the playground surface carefully, and be sure to stay away from hard surfaces like asphalt, concrete, dirt, and grass.  Instead, try softer surfaces like wood mulch, wood chips, engineered wood fibers, sand, pea gravel, or shredded tires.

Finally, be sure to regularly inspect your playground for wear and tear, loose boards or connections, loose rails, and protruding nails and screws.

CPSC Playground Safety Recommendations

The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission offers these safety recommendations to help prevent injuries from falls and other hazards on home playgrounds:
  1. Install and maintain a shock-absorbing surface around the play equipment.
    • Use at least 9 inches of wood chips, mulch, or shredded rubber for play equipment up to 7 feet high.
    • If sand or pea gravel is used, install at least a 9-inch layer for play equipment up to 5 feet high.
    • Or, use surfacing mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials.
  2. Install protective surfacing at least 6 feet in all directions from play equipment.  For swings, be sure surfacing extends, in back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar.
  3. Never attach — or allow children to attach — ropes, jump ropes, clotheslines, or pet leashes to play equipment; children can strangle on these.
  4. Check for hardware, like open "S" hooks or protruding bolt ends, which can be hazardous.
  5. Check for spaces that could trap children, such as openings in guardrails or between ladder rungs; these spaces should measure less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches.
  6. Make sure platforms and ramps have guardrails to prevent falls.
  7. Check for sharp points or edges in equipment.
  8. Remove tripping hazards, like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.
  9. Regularly check play equipment and surfacing to make sure both are in good condition.
  10. Carefully supervise children on play equipment to make sure they are safe.
For additional information about playground safety issues, visit this Playground Safety page, which is published by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.
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