Children need to be protected from injury or death while playing on playgrounds. Training of supervising adults and the children who use the playground will help keep children safe. Adult supervision is not enough. Children need to be trained on how to use the equipment correctly to avoid being hurt. Training will not guarantee that incidents will not occur, but it will help reduce the chances.
While children play on the playground, adult supervision is necessary at all times to prevent injuries. Adults monitoring the children should watch for children using the playground equipment properly and safely. Examples of improper use of playground equipment are two or more children on a piece of equipment designed for one child; careless behaviour such as jumping off a swing as the child is swinging. Proper use of equipment means using the equipment as it is intended to be used, such as sitting down on the swings and facing each other when on the see-saw. Children might not be able to foresee the consequences of misuse of the playground equipment. Adults can intervene if a child is using the equipment inappropriately or administer first aid if necessary. The adult supervising the children must be trained in first aid.
Teaching Children How to Play Safely
Students need to know how to act responsibly and safely on the playground. Adults might be supervising many students at one time and cannot see everything that is going on. Rules on behaviour, using the equipment, and what to do if there is an emergency should be taught to the students and reviewed with them on a regular basis. Posting the playground rules in kid-friendly language both in English and another language, if a non-English speaking population uses the playground, will help the student remember the rules. Playing is an important part of the development of a child. Adults need to make sure students are properly supervised and safe when they play.
When designing a playground or making improvements, the overall safety of the children is the main goal. Playground surfaces are an important consideration to reduce injuries that occur when a child falls. The surface should be able to soften the impact of the fall. Wood chips, mulch, pea gravel, sand, rubber or rubber-like materials are soft enough to absorb the falls of the children. Materials such as concrete, grass and blacktop do not absorb the falls of the children. Playground surfaces cannot prevent all injuries. Playgrounds should be designed for the age level of the students who will be using the playground. When children of all ages are using the playground, separate areas might be needed for safety. Younger children should not play on equipment designed for older children, the equipment is not designed and is not proportional for the smaller children. Older children should not play on equipment designed for younger children. The equipment is usually smaller and there is less space for the older children to play safely.
Maintenance and Inspection
Regular playground inspections and maintenance should be performed year-round. During the times when school is not in session, neighbourhood children might use the playground. If something needs to be cleaned, fixed or removed, it should be taken care of immediately. Immediate attention to problems not only helps with the safety of the playground, it improves the appearance.
Programs for Playground Safety
Schools that are unsure if they are providing the best supervision and safety can purchase resources, such as DVDs, to ensure the students are properly supervised and safe when playing on the playground. Online training is also available. The National Program for Playground Safety has a variety of products and training available at www.playgroundsafety.org.