Top 10 Playground Safety Inspections

1. Improper Protective Surfacing

The surface or ground under and around the playground equipment should be soft enough to cushion a fall. Improper surfacing material under playground equipment is the leading cause of playground related injuries and your highest concern. Over seventy percent of all accidents on playgrounds are from falls.

2. Inadequate Fall Zone

A fall zone or use zone is under the area under and around the playground equipment where a child might fall. A fall zone should be covered with protective surfacing material and extend a minimum of six feet in all directions from the edge of stationary play equipment such as climbers and chin up bars. The fall zones are different for the various pieces of equipment. Know your fall zones.

3. Protrusion & Entanglement Hazards

A protrusion hazard is a component or piece of hardware that might be capable of impaling or cutting a child if a child should fall against the hazard. Some protrusions are also capable of catching strings or items of clothing which might be worn around a child’s neck. This type of entanglement is especially hazardous because it might result in strangulation. Examples of protrusion and entanglement hazards include bolt ends that extend more than two threads beyond the face of the nut, hardware configurations that form a hook or leave a gap or space between components and open “S” type hooks. Just to name a few.

4. Entrapment in Openings

Enclosed openings on playground equipment must be checked for head entrapment hazards. Children often enter openings feet first and attempt to slide through the opening. If the opening is not large enough it may allow the body to pass through the opening and entrap the head causing strangulation.

5. Insufficient Equipment Spacing

Improper spacing between pieces of play equipment can cause overcrowding of a play area which may create several hazards. Fall zones for equipment that is higher than twenty-four inches above the ground cannot overlap. Therefore there should be a minimum of twelve feet in between two play structures. This provides room for children to circulate and prevents the possibility of a child falling off of one structure and striking another structure. Swings and other pieces of moving equipment should be located in an area away from other structures.

6. Trip Hazards

Trip hazards are created by play structure components or items on the playground. Exposed concrete footings, abrupt changes in surface elevations, containment borders, tree roots, tree stumps and rocks are all common trip hazards that are often found in play environment.

7. Lack of Maintenance

For playgrounds to remain in “safe’ condition a program of systematic, preventive maintenance must be present. There should be no missing, broken or worn-out components. All hardware should be secure. The wood, metal, or plastic should not show signs of fatigue or deterioration. All parts should be stable with no apparent signs of loosening. The surfacing material must also be maintained. Check for signs of vandalism.

8. Pinch, Crush Shearing, and Sharp Edge Hazards

Components in the play environment should be inspected to make sure there are no sharp edges or points that could cut skin. Moving components such as suspension bridges, track rides, merry-go-rounds, see-saws and some swings should be checked to make sure that there are no moving parts or mechanisms that might crush or pinch a child’s finger.

9. Platforms with No Guardrails

Elevated surfaces such as platforms, ramps, and bridge ways should have guardrails that would prevent accidental falls. Preschool age children are more at risk from falls and equipment intended for this age group should have guardrails on elevated surfaces higher than twenty inches. Equipment intended far school-age children should have guardrails on elevated surfaces higher than thirty inches.

10. Equipment Not Recommended for Public Playgrounds

Accidents associated with the following types of equipment have resulted in the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommending that they not be used on public playgrounds:
• Heavy swings such as animal figure swings and multiple occupancy/glider type swings.
• Free swinging ropes that may fray or form a loop.
Swinging exercise rings and trapeze bars are considered athletic equipment and not recommended for public playgrounds. Overhead hanging rings that have a short amount of chain and are intended for use as a ring trek (generally four to eight rings).