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Making playgrounds safe places to play

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Few outdoor activities are as entertaining to children as a playground. The swings, slides and seesaws are guaranteed fun, especially with the warmer temperatures of summer settling in across Oklahoma.

In order to keep the good times rolling, though, it is important to make sure the equipment and surrounding areas are safe places to play.

“Accidents happen, but there are some precautions you can take both at home and at public playgrounds to keep kids as safe as possible,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.

More than 200,000 children in the United States annually earn trips to the emergency room with injuries linked to playground equipment, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Most injuries happen when children fall from play sets to the ground.

“At lot of times, backyard play equipment is built on dirt or grass, which does a poor job of protecting children when they fall,” Peek said.

A shock-absorbing surface should be installed around playground equipment. At least 9 to 12 inches of wood chips, mulch or shredded rubber should be used for equipment up to 7 feet high. Or, at least 9 inches of sand or pea gravel should be installed for equipment up to 5 feet high.

Surfacing mats comprised of safety-test rubber or rubber-like materials are another good option.

Meanwhile, protective surfacing should extend 6 feet in all directions. If the play set includes swings, the surfacing should extend twice the height of the suspending bar both in front and behind.

The play area should be clear of exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, rocks and other possible tripping hazards. All platforms and ramps also should have guardrails to protect against falls.

Other potential hazards include hardware such as bolt ends that stick out, sharp edges or points on the equipment, and areas in and around the equipment where children could become trapped such as between guardrails and ladder rungs.

Playground equipment and the surrounding surfacing should be checked on a regular basis to ensure everything is in good working condition.

Finally, children always should be supervised while they are on the equipment.

“In addition to making sure the equipment is safe, adults also should ensure children are using the equipment the way it was intended,” Peek said. “For instance, they should go down the slide right way.”

For more information on playground safety, contact the nearest county Extension office and visit the CPSC website at

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