The U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission CPSC has long recognized the potential hazards that exist with the use of playground equipment, with over 200,000 estimated emergency room-treated injuries annually. The most recent study of 2,691 playground equipment-related incidents reported to the CPSC from 2001-2008 indicated that falls are the most common hazard pattern (44% of injuries) followed by equipment-related hazards, such as breakage, tip over, design, and assembly (23%). Other hazard patterns involved entrapment and colliding other children or stationary equipment. Playground-related deaths reported to the Commission involved entanglement of ropes, leashes, or clothing; falls; and impact from equipment tip over or structural failure. In 2010 the CPSC released a handbook called the Public Playground Safety Handbook which is the basis for most recommended playground safety information.
R-7 has been a huge supporter of playground safety and implements both ASTM and CPSC safety standards in the design, maintenance, and supervision. R-7 has multiple staff members that are Certified Playground Safety Inspectors (CPSI) and are required to recertify every three years to ensure to stay abreast new and ever changing regulations. These CPSIs are an integral part of the design of new playgrounds and playground equipment as well as the continual preventative maintenance and evaluation of our playgrounds.
Playground Safety Inspections are done twice every school year. Once in the summer before school starts and once in the winter months to ensure proper maintenance and operation. Other inspections and evaluations could be done for special situations. These special situations include but not limited to ensuring a new playground is ready for play or if an observed issue is reported by staff, students, or patrons.
R-7 currently uses a safety turf system installed through SYNLAWN. The system is a Greenfoam padding designed as impact attenuating surfacing. This padding is then covered this a synthetic nylon turf. This initiative was in part with a community supported non-tax increase bond that allowed for R-7 to eliminate the use of loose fill surfacing. Loose fill surfacing as one large disadvantage, the displacement of the fill. This eliminates the potential removal of protective surfacing. This change is a safer and cleaner alternative to our past playgrounds.
Impact attenuating surfacing used on playgrounds are designed to mitigate the force place on a child when they fall. These surfaces will not prevent all injuries but are designed to prevent serious head injuries and fatalities of a child falling from equipment.
The quality of the supervision depends on the quality of the supervisor’s knowledge of safe play behavior. Playground designers should be aware of the type of supervision most likely for their given playground. Parents and playground supervisors should be aware that not all playground equipment is appropriate for all children who may use the playground. Supervisors should look for posted signs indicating the appropriate age of the users and direct children to equipment appropriate for their age. Toddlers and preschool-age children require more attentive supervision than older children; however, one should not rely on supervision alone to prevent injuries.
Playground supervision should be considered a top priority in providing a safe play environment. Most of the other functions of safety are done during the design and maintenance to mitigate the impact of an accident. However the supervision is an integral part in the accident prevention and response. R-7 has staff members responsible and trained to provide supervision on our school playgrounds. Currently there is no set in stone ratio for playground supervision, however a suggested rule to abide by is enough supervisors to adequately be able to see and supervise the entire play area. Therefore supervisors should be stationed as such that all areas our able to be seen through open sight lines and if a supervisor must respond to assist a child then the other should relocate to assimilate that supervisors area.
A couple activities that are not recommended as they can hinder proper supervision. It is not recommended to stand next to one another supervisor and talk. This will cause distractions and lack of coverage. Supervisors should be spread out to be able to cover all areas. It is not recommended to use electronic devices as it is a violation of Board Policy GBCC and a large distraction from the supervision activities.
Supervisors should understand the basics of playground safety such as:
- If equipment is found to be in disrepair make sure children don’t play on it and it is reported to Facilities or Safety immediately
- If any unsafe modifications, especially ropes tied to equipment, are found remove them immediately before letting children play.
- Checking for properly maintained protective surfacing.
- Making sure children are wearing foot wear.
- Watching and stopping dangerous activities, such as jumping from heights, improper equipment use, playing games that can force children into or off of equipment, etc.
- Watching for and stopping children from wandering away from the play area.
- Looking for and stopping improper equipment use.