Playing it Safe

Special care must be taken during hot summer days

Playgrounds are a compelling and fun attraction for children of all ages and offer the chance to explore and develop physical, emotional, social and intellectual skills. However, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, each year over 200,000 children are injured seriously enough on America’s playgrounds—both on home and public playspaces– to require emergency medical visits. Educating adults and children about common safety hazards and how to prevent playground mishaps are the first steps toward helping communities reduce these figures.

Of particular concern during the hot days of summer is the temperature that playground components can reach. Parents, caregivers and children are advised to always test the warmth as well as the general condition of any playground before a child begins to play on it.

“Whenever possible, shade should be provided on playgrounds because it screens up to 95% of the sun’s dangerous rays, allowing children and adults to linger outdoors for extended periods of time safely, says Tim Ahern, CEO/owner of BCI Burke. “Shade units also keep play equipment surfaces cooler for the more sensitive skin and hands of youngsters.”

There are several key factors for adults to consider to keep children safe on playgrounds:

• Put your hand on parts of the playground that the children’s bare skin might touch. If it is hot to the touch, do not let the kids play on those areas.
• Choose a cooler part of the day to play. Apply sunscreen to protect children’s delicate skin.

• As a rough rule of thumb, surfacing around play structures should be at least 12 inches deep, consisting of either loose fill surfacing such as pea gravel, mulch, sand or wood chips, or one of a variety of rubber products available. It is strongly recommended to consult with a certified playground installer or playground manufacturer to ensure all safety guidelines, including exact depth of surfacing materials, are followed.
• Never attach ropes, jump ropes, clotheslines, or pet leashes to the equipment. These present serious strangulation hazards to children.
• Watch for broken parts, rust, protruding hardware, sharp edges, or other disrepair. Bring maintenance and safety concerns to the attention of the appropriate person immediately.
• Ensure debris and litter is picked up to prevent tripping hazards and health issues.
• Due to the differing capabilities and needs of children, separate play areas should be provided for pre-schoolers (ages 2-5) and children ages 5-12. Be sure children play on the equipment designated for their age.
• Look for signage on playgrounds that inform parents/supervisors which structures are appropriate for the age of the children in their care, and remind them of supervision requirements.
• Interact with children at play. They take pride in showing adults what they can do. This also allows for better attention to safety.

Children can also help. According to the National Program for Playground Safety(NPPS), children should follow these safety tips:

• Never play on playgrounds with loose clothing or drawstrings.
• Remove bike helmets while playing.
• Bring an adult with you.
• Only play on equipment with soft surfacing underneath.
• Pick up trash in and around the playground.
• Tell an adult if any equipment is broken, and do not play on it until it is fixed.
• When playing on swings: be sure to sit down at all times, slow down before getting off, and do not walk near someone who is swinging.
• Play on dry equipment only.
• Beware of hot surfaces that can burn skin on sunny days.

To emphasize safety and fun, NPPS offers a SAFE Playground Supervision Kit to help supervisors understand and learn the techniques of safe supervision. The kit includes a training manual, dvd, and a supervision fanny pack. BCI Burke, a leader in playground safety is the only playground manufacturer to offer the NPPS Playground Supervision Kit free of charge to their customers.

“Unfortunately, the lack of adult supervision is a major problem on playgrounds,” says Ahern. “We ensure our products are safe, however, once they are put in the ground, adults need to educate themselves and kids regarding safe play practices. The NPPS kit is a great tool for making this job much easier.”

While it is impossible to prevent every injury, careful planning, education and supervision will make the playground experience more enjoyable for kids and adults alike. Ultimately, the best playgrounds provide fun and safe play experiences, and memories that last a lifetime.

BCI Burke, with headquarters in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, is a premier manufacturer of commercial playground, park, and recreation equipment and an avid supporter of playground safety. You can reach BCI Burke at (920)921-9220, or visit