Safety Standards for Children's Swings

Updated April 17, 2017

Swings are among the most popular equipment on a playground, enjoyed by children of all ages, according to the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission's Public Playground Safety Handbook. But they also require special care in planning, construction and supervision.


The late 1800s was a period rich in reform movements, notably the women's movement, and an offshoot of the push for women's rights was a movement to protect children. In addition to efforts to regulate child labour, children's rights activists worked to provide public playgrounds as safe places for children to play, and by the early 1900s cities were allocating funds for this purpose.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that every year about 200,000 children suffer playground injuries serious enough to send them to an emergency room; 45 per cent of those injuries are "severe." The Oklahoma State Department of Labor's Playground Inspection Guide warns that swings "are the pieces of moving equipment that are most likely to cause injuries."


The Consumer Product Safety Commission has a series of specific recommendations for swings, including the use of closed S-hooks. In addition, you should not be able to remove the attaching hardware without tools. Nothing on the swing set should stick out more than 1/8 inch. To minimise falls, the CPSC recommends that swing support structures should discourage climbing, adding that A-frame supports should omit the crossbars.


Swings should not be hung with fibre ropes, which can weaken over time, and the seats should not be made of wood or metal; the CPSC recommends rubber and plastic for seats. The swings should not hang from composite structures.


To reduce the chance of collision, swings must be placed at a safe distance from each other and from other equipment. The CPSC recommends a minimum distance of 24 inches between swings--20 inches for toddler swings--and a minimum distance of 30 inches between a swing and the support structure--20 inches for toddler swings. Swings should be placed well away from other equipment: at least twice the assembly's height in front and back, and at least 6 feet on either side.


How swings are used can affect their safety. Children should never stand in swing seats or jump out of a moving swing, and they should never run in front of an occupied swing. Swings are intended for one rider at a time, so children should not double up. Adult supervision is recommended to ensure that children use swings safely.


These recommendations are for conventional swings, which swing back and forth. Multiaxis swings, which swing in multiple directions, and swings intended for very young children or children with disabilities will require special considerations.

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About the Author

Jennifer Spirko has been writing professionally for more than 20 years, starting at "The Knoxville Journal." She has written for "MetroPulse," "Maryville-Alcoa Daily Times" and "Some" monthly. She has taught writing at North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee. Spirko holds a Master of Arts from the Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-on-Avon, England.