How to address the safety hazards in our playgrounds

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    How to address the safety hazards in our playgrounds

    We all know that playgrounds are loved by many, it is likely that many of your childhood memories will have taken place in a play area too. They provide an opportunity for children to make new friends, discover new challenges and explore risks that they’ve never seen before. But what about when these risks become harmful?

    We take a look at the current playground safety situation and what we can do to help:

    How safe are the playgrounds at the minute?

    There is not one singular piece of research that concludes our playground safety levels. However, there has been some smaller studies carried out that shine light on the situation.

    One study found that when children play sport, they are in fact more exposed to risks than if they were playing in the playground. Play England found that rugby has the highest non-fatal accident rate per 100,000 hours of exposure, with roughly 280 incidents. Football and hockey are the next most dangerous, with approximately 130 and 90 incidents respectively. In comparison, public playgrounds have one of the lowest non-fatal accident rates at around 5 incidents per 100,000 hours of exposure.

    It’s no longer safe to assume that all playgrounds have been fully safety checked. Hotels, restaurants and public houses are creating playgrounds as part of their businesses too, and this is where many accidents are reported. The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Health and Safety Advisory Group suggested that these accidents were due to incorrect design and layout, poor inspection and maintenance, unsuitable clothing and lack of adult supervision amongst others.

    Maximising protection

    There are actions that we can all take to maximise protection in the playground and reduce the risk levels.

    Is there anything councils and local businesses can do?

    It’s important to keep the exciting and challenging features of a playground in place. Playground designers cannot be overly safety conscious when deciding how a playground should look or else the adventures and challenges that children enjoy in a play area will be eliminated. However, a well-designed playground will not raise any additional hazards for children and will encourage safe play.

    When designing a playground, the gateways and pathways should be accessible to all. Parents with pushchairs must be able to navigate around the park to watch their children, disabled people and children must be able to enjoy the area and emergency services must be able to reach the play zone in the case of an accident.

    The materials used in making the park should also be given careful consideration. Hard surfaces should be non-slip, especially in rain and adverse weather conditions as this is a common cause of accidents. Impact absorbing surfacing should be fitted around all apparatus to reduce injury level in the case of a fall. This could be in the form of play bark (bark chippings) or sand. Surfaces should be level too, with adequate opportunity for drainage to reduce risk of corrosion on any of the equipment.

    Is there anything parents and guardians can do?

    Supervision is the main thing that parents and guardians can do. Especially, keep an eye out for older and younger children playing together. This can lead to bullying or your child feeling uncomfortable when they are playing. In this situation, encourage your child to play on another piece of equipment and suggest to the appropriate authority that segregated areas could be beneficial. Keep an eye out for any litter too which may be harmful. For example, cigarette dumps, alcohol bottles or broken glass.

    Frequently remind children of the rules of the road and how to behave when near cars. Although playgrounds should not be placed next to a road, often children can wander off and put themselves in a dangerous situation. It’s understandable that parents cannot watch their children at all times and it is settling to know that your children are aware of the Green Cross Code if they come to a roadside.

    Help others if you notice any hazards to prevent further injuries. Make sure that you report any problem in the playground to the appropriate authorities to avoid any accidents for other children. Ask your children about their experiences too after they have been playing; they might have come across something that you did not notice.

    This advice was given to us by Compost Direct, retailers of lawn dressing and play bark.

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    Written by Jenson Phillips

    Hi, I'm Jenson. Father of two and living with OCD, read my musings on coping with both and maybe pick up some advice for yourself.