Many of us remember when recess was the best part of the school day. It was a chance to find our best friends, hang from the monkey bars, go down the slide or use the swing set. Our memories are probably mostly nostalgic, yet school playgrounds remain the site of many serious injuries. Unfortunately, these are not injuries that can be treated with a small bandage, ice pack or a parent’s magical kiss. Recent data reveals that emergency rooms treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger every year. Even more sobering, between 2001 and 2008, the Consumer Product Safety Commission investigated 40 deaths associated with playground equipment.
Here are a few things you should know when you drop your children off at school:
- Children ages 5 to 9 are the most at risk to suffer playground injury accidents.
- Girls are seriously injured more often than boys, 55% to 45%.
- Most public playground injuries involve climbing equipment, 53%.
What can you do to ensure your school’s playground equipment is safe? You can always discuss how often the equipment is inspected and maintained with school authorities. You may find there is no maintenance schedule whatsoever. Most equipment should have a protective, flexible surface installed underneath. Protective surfaces should also extend 6 feet in all directions from the play area, particularly in front and back of swing-sets. Specific rules exist for surfaces beneath playground equipment depending on the type of equipment, its height, those using it and other variables.
You should also ensure that all sharp edges are removed, S-shaped hooks are closed and any missing hardware is replaced. Ropes, pet leashes and cords of any kind should never be attached to playground equipment because they pose a strangulation hazard. Strangulation is the most common cause of death for children using playground equipment.
Even if protective steps are taken to ensure the safety of children, accidents and injuries can still occur. If a child is seriously injured on the playground, you may want to find out if the child’s injuries were preventable. This requires a rigorous analysis of applicable laws and codes, the intended use of the equipment, its maintenance and condition, and a number of environmental factors.
Ken Selander is a personal injury attorney with a focus on children’s injuries, including school injuries due to poorly maintained playground equipment, improper supervision and defective products. If you have any questions regarding a child injury claim, Ken is available at 206-723-8200 for a free and confidential legal consultation.