We all know the benefits of outdoor play and learning in a preschool or school environment, but we do we know how to create a safe playground environment? Going ahead and installing a playground without fully understanding the necessary safety precautions can result in expensive litigation and possible closure. So with that in mind what makes a playground safe?
The key factors in evaluating the safety of any playground are design, spacing, safe surfaces and maintenance
What Makes A Playground Safe? | Design and Spacing
When designing a playground you first need to ascertain which age group will be using it. There are three age groups to consider, under 2’s and toddlers, 2-5 year olds and 5-12 your olds. If any of these different age groups are going to share a play area then each area should be separated and clearly designated to avoid confusion.
Playground equipment designed for older children will almost certainly be proportionally larger than that for a toddler and could lead to injury were they to play on it.
Keep to the guidelines below and you will create a safe and fun activity space.
- Elevated surfaces should be protected by guard rails and ramps.
- Any structure more than 30 inches in height should be spaced at least 9 feet apart.
- Playground equipment with moving parts such as swings and seesaws should be installed away from the rest of the playground.
- The same equipment should be checked for any pinch points that could lead to crushed fingers or hands.
- Swings should be limited to 2 per bay and toddler bucket swings should have their own bay.
- All openings on playground equipment, like bars on a guard rail or ladder rungs, should measure less that 3.5 inches or MORE than 9 inches to prevent a child’s head or other body part becoming trapped.
- The same goes for climbing nets with the equipment openings that prevent a child falling through or eliminating entrapment of the head.
What Makes A Playground Safe? | Safe Surfaces
It goes without saying that solid hard surfaces such as concrete are unacceptable surfaces for a playground. Stick to the following and play it safe!
- If you are using loose fill over a hard surface such as asphalt or concrete, it should be at least 3 inches deep, covered by a layer of geotextile cloth, a layer of loose fil surfacing material and then impact mats under the playground equipment.
- Surfaces may be loosely filled with materials like mulch, pea gravel or shredded rubber.
- Surface mats made of safety tested rubber or similar material are also satisfactory.
- If the equipment is up to 8 feet high then loose fill safety surfaces should be at least 12 inches deep and not packed down.
- There is a simple rule that if the combined height of a piece of playground equipment and a standing child is higher than 12 feet, then it is NOT safe.
- The impact absorbent surface should extend at least 6 feet past the equipment, remember this is the minimum and additional safety surfacing may be needed if the swings are long or the slide is high.
What Makes A Playground Safe? | Maintenance
Installing a safe playground is not the end of your responsibilities. Maintaining it is just as important.
- Ensure the equipment is not broken.
- Check for splintering and cracks on wooden playground equipment.
- Regular checks of the safe surfacing is paramount, especially loose filled. Ensure it is the correct depth and spread evenly.
- Keep your playground clean and free of any debris or water hazards.
- If you have a sandbox make sure it is covered when not in use to prevent contamination from animals such as cats and dogs.
- If any of your playground equipment is found to be broken, loose or in need of maintenance it should immediately be made off limits until a professional has remedied of any problems.
If you diligently keep to the above guidelines then this should ensure a safe and fun playing environment. It is not an exhaustive list and when installing a playground seek the advice of industry professionals.
Monkey Puzzle Playgrounds have many years experience in this field, why not download our brochure to see what we can offer you, or if you have any questions regarding playground safety then simply get in touch with one of our experts.