Safe Playground Tips
The International Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) is reminding parents and caregivers of the importance of providing safe play environments. IPEMA's playground safety experts have compiled a list of helpful hints to help safely maximize their child's experience on the playground -- to help take advantage of the many benefits of play.
"Even more than ever, during these difficult economic times, parents are turning to simple activities such as free play to create family fun," said Tom Norquist, past president of IPEMA and leader of the Voice of Play advocacy initiative. "Going outside to encourage children to play is one of the most important things parents can do to help a child's development and playground safety is a critical first step in creating a positive play experience."
Safe Playground Tips
IPEMA's experience in safety certification of playground equipment and surfacing has prompted them to issue a list of five important steps that communities should take to help ensure safety on the playground.
"Spring is the perfect time to brush up on playground safety," added Norquist. "Performing equipment and surfacing maintenance upgrades can help contribute to a great play experience."
Don't forget what's below your feet! Grass is not an acceptable surfacing for playgrounds. One of the leading causes of injury on playgrounds is falling from playground equipment. To minimize the frequency and severity of injury from playground falls, it is crucial to have certified playground surfacing, such as engineered wood fiber, poured-in-place or rubber mulch surfacing installed under and around the equipment on any public playground. This surfacing is certified to have sufficient depth or thickness to minimize impact injuries from falls.
Be an advocate for safety standards. Playground equipment and surfacing have been carefully evaluated by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). The standards set by these organizations help ensure that playground equipment and surfacing is age appropriate and designed with the measurement of children's physical dimensions, skills and abilities in mind. IPEMA runs an industry-leading certification program to test and validate playground equipment and surfacing to meet ASTM standards.
Proper installation is key to safety! Playground equipment should be installed by individuals experienced in assembly directions and knowledgeable about the environment surrounding the playground, including soil, drainage and the use of other construction materials, tools, equipment and machinery. The manufacturers of specific pieces of equipment can provide certified installers, or the International Playground Contractors Association can provide assistance.
Check, re-check and then check again. Once the equipment and surfacing are installed have a post-installation safety audit performed by a person certified in playground safety prior to use. This audit will determine if any equipment or surfacing is non-compliant and will help prioritize any issues that should be corrected before the playing begins. Proper installation also includes posting signage about the age-appropriateness of specific equipment.
Don't underestimate maintenance and upkeep. Proper maintenance can be forgotten -- but is one of the most important aspects of ensuring safety on a playground. Maintenance processes must be in place on both a routine and long-term basis. Equipment and surfacing must be checked for signs of damage following severe weather and for signs of vandalism or any other man-made or natural catastrophe. In addition, equipment and surfacing will show natural wear and tear each year and regular maintenance inspections and replacement processes should be in place to minimize hazards.
"Parents and caregivers should advocate maintenance and safety in their local communities and to playground owners and officials," added Norquist.
Source: The International Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association