Each year in the United States, emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries. About 45% of playground-related injuries include severe fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations, and amputations. Additionally, about 75% of non-fatal injuries related to playground equipment occur on public playgrounds, with most of these accidents occurring at schools and daycare centers.
Between 1990 and 2000, 147 children ages 14 and younger died from playground-related injuries. Of them, 82 died from strangulation and 31 died from falls to the playground surface. Most of these deaths occurred on home playgrounds.
Many of the injuries come from falls from the equipment, such as monkey bars, swings and slides. Some inherent dangers are the culprit in many of these cases is the design and installation of the equipment, or, in most cases, the maintenance and upkeep of the ground surface under and around the equipment.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Handbook for Public Playground Safety provides standards to promote greater safety awareness for those who purchase, install, and maintain public playground equipment. It sets forth the acceptable type and depth of surfacing material under and around playground equipment to minimizing the potential for injury. For example, there should be a minimum of 10 inches of shredded rubber over the higher (10 feet). There should be a minimum of 9 inches of sand under equipment that has a fall height of 4 feet.
In New Jersey, Governmental and for-profit private entities operating playgrounds are governed by the playground safety guidelines of the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (Handbook for Public Playground Safety) “Playground Safety Subcode.” The guidelines set forth mandatory guidelines for the design, installation, inspection and maintenance of playgrounds and playground equipment.
Even when these guidelines for installation and requisite surface materials are met, there is a recurring danger of injury as the equipment is used. Surface material decomposes, compresses or gets displaced. Constant maintenance is necessary to ensure the safety of the children using the equipment.
Once equipment and surfacing material is installed in a public playground according to manufacturer’s instructions and national standards and guidelines, it must be maintained in order to remain safe.