Keeping our children safe: improving playground safety
Most children love going to the playground — it’s a chance to explore risk, socialise with their friends and make long-lasting memories. But what about when the risk becomes too much?
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What does the current situation look like?
There has not been a great amount of research conducted surrounding playground safety. However, there are a few studies that shine some light on the current situation.
Research carried out by Play England discovered that playing sport can actually pose more risk to a child than the playground. For example, 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.
Although we may think that all playgrounds have been safety checked and fitted by the council, this is not always the case. 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.
What actions can you take?
Don’t leave it up to the authorities to keep your children safe, there are things that you can also do to maximise safety levels and decrease accident rates.
Councils and local businesses — what can they do?
Of course, not all accidents that occur in the playground can be avoided. 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.
It is important that the playground is accessible to all — whether this be in the form of wider gateways or easy-to-navigate pathways. 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.
Another careful consideration should be the materials that the surfaces are made from. 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.
Parents and guardians — what can they do?
The main thing that parents and guardians can do is to keep an eye on their child when they are playing — it is likely that they will be able to spot potential hazards.
Be cautious of 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. Also keep an eye out for any litter, which may be harmful. For example, cigarette dumps, alcohol bottles or broken glass.
Make sure that your children are smart around the roads. 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.
Prevent future actions occurring by reporting any problem you come across to the local authorities. Ask your children about their experiences after they have been playing, too; they might have come across something that you did not notice.