Is there room for improvement when it comes to playground safety?

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Playgrounds are a key part of growing up, they’re the hub of playtime, exploring risk and making memories that will last for ever. But what happens when the risk becomes too much?

Retailers of lawn top dressing and play bark, Compost Direct, investigate playground safety below:

How is safety in the playground currently?

There is not any one piece of conclusive evidence that summarises the safety of playgrounds in the UK. However, some studies that have taken place do shine some light on the safety of our playgrounds.

Play England conducted research of their own which found that sport in fact poses more harm to a child than playing in a 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.

When we talk about a playground, often we think of a safe haven for children that has been well vetted by health authorities and the council. However, 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.

Ensuring protection

It shouldn’t all be left down to the authorities to keep play areas safe, there are things that we can all do to maximise safety levels.

Actions that councils and local businesses can take

We should all bear in mind that some accidents that occur in the playground are inevitable. 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.

The accessibility of the playground to all is one thing that should be prioritised. 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.

The surfaces of the play area should also be carefully evaluated. 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.

Actions that parents and guardians can take

Parents and guardians should ensure that they are supervising their children at all times — it is likely that they will be able to spot potential hazards before they occur.

Keep an eye out for 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. Keep an eye out for any litter too which may be harmful. For example, cigarette dumps, alcohol bottles or broken glass.

Keep children well informed of how to be safe around a roadside. 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.

Be preventative in your actions. Make sure that you report any problem in the playground to the appropriate authorities to avoid any accidents for other children. Ask your children about their experiences too after they have been playing; they might have come across something that you did not notice.

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