Swings, Slides, and Safety: Recognizing National Playground Safety Week

April 19, 2024

Post by Julie Jelen, LMCIT loss control consultant

Two young girls playing on swings at a playground.According to the National Program for Playground Safety, proper maintenance can prevent up to 45% of playground-related injuries. National Playground Safety Week, April 22 – 26, 2024, is an annual event dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of playground safety and promoting a safe play environment for children.

Avoid Common Playground Hazards

There are several common hazards and factors that can be identified — and prevented — with a playground maintenance plan:

  • Improper protective surfaces – Falls cause 80% of playground injuries. To meet requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), fall surfaces should have at least 12 inches of engineered wood fibers, poured in place rubber, rubber tiles, or a hybrid surface system.
  • Unprotected elevated areas – All platforms higher than 30 inches should have guardrails.
  • Inadequate use zone – The area under and around play equipment where a child might fall should be open and clear of obstacles and other equipment for a minimum of six feet in all directions.
  • Protrusion hazards – Be cautious of hardware that could impale or cut a child, such as bolts, hooks, or rungs, as well as items that could catch strings or clothing. Children should be encouraged to avoid wearing drawstring hoodies on playground equipment. Ensure playground equipment is devoid of sharp points and edges, including protruding bolt ends and “S” hooks.
  • Head entrapment hazards – To ensure that children do not get their heads entrapped in equipment, openings between rails, bars, rungs, and ropes of cargo nets should measure less than 3.5 inches or more than nine inches.
  • Overcrowded play areas – Swings should be set far enough away from other equipment that children will not be hit by a moving swing. Structures more than 30 inches high should be at least nine feet apart.
  • Tripping hazards – Uneven surfaces, protruding hardware, and debris can pose tripping hazards. Ensure the playground is free of obstacles and hazards to prevent trips and falls.
  • Lack of maintenance – Metal or wooden swing seats should be replaced with soft seats, and equipment should not be split or splintered.
  • Accessibility – Ensure that the playground is accessible to children of all abilities, including those with disabilities, by providing wheelchair-accessible ramps, ground-level activities, and inclusive play equipment.

Use the National Recreation and Park Association’s Certified Playground Safety Inspector Registry to find a certified playground safety inspector in your area. In addition, please contact your LMCIT loss control consultant for assistance pertaining to playground safety or maintenance checklists.

By implementing a maintenance plan and adhering to regular playground inspection and maintenance schedules, cities can minimize the risk of accidents and injuries and create a safe and enjoyable play environment for all children.

Additional resources:

The Dirty Dozen: 12 Playground Hazards
Consumer Product Safety Commission Public Playground Safety Handbook
National Safety Council: Staying Safe on Playgrounds
U.S. Access Board: Chapter 10 ADA play surfaces