Safety Standards for Children's Swings

Written by jennifer spirko
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  • Introduction

    Safety Standards for Children's Swings

    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.

    Swings are a popular playground feature. (empty swings image by robert mobley from

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    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.

    Playgrounds have become a familiar sight thanks to an early reform movement. (children playground image by Vladislav Gajic from

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    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."

    Playground injuries send thousands of children to the emergency room every year. (at the playground image by Sherri Camp from

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    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.

    Swing set structure should support the swings and discourage climbing. (Beach Swings image by Cathy Kovarik from

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    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.

    Swings should not use wooden seats or fibre ropes. (swing image by Sebastian from

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    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.

    A swing's "use zone" extends forward and backward twice the height of the structure. (swinging image by Lori Boggetti from

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    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.

    Adult supervision can help children stay safe on swings. (fun on swing image by Cherry-Merry from

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    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.

    Tire swings require special safety considerations. (boy on swing image by Piter Pkruger from

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