According to the National Injury Foundation, playing on the playground is the most injury-intensive activity in primary schools. Up to 80 per cent of all injuries occur on the playground, of which 25 per cent are caused by falls from equipment. For children to play safely on the playground, have adequate supervision, set rules, ensure that the playground layout is safe and that the equipment is safe to use.
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Adults should be on the school playground to identify potential hazards, intercede and help the kids play safely. The number of supervisors needed depend on the age, amount of children, weather conditions and size of the playground. A playground supervisor should ideally receive first aid training to ensure he will react appropriately in emergency situations. The supervisor should also be able to identify areas where accidents are most likely to occur. When necessary, the supervisor should intervene in play and maybe decrease the number of children on a piece of equipment or in a certain area. He might have to rearrange certain games on the playground and act to interfere with unacceptable or unsafe behaviour. He should have a whistle or other means of getting the children's attention.
The school should establish playground rules and educate children to obey these rules. Don't let children take toys onto the playground that could pose a hazard. Also, don't let them play on fences, in trees or other places that are not intended for play. The playground should be divided into age groups to avoid rough play and ensure that children play on age-appropriate equipment.
Playground Layout and Surface
The playground should be laid out in such a way that the supervisors can easily oversee the whole area and that children are not hidden from their sight. As a high number of playground injuries are caused by falls, the surface around stationary equipment should be covered with at least 12 inches of wood chips, soft sand, mulch or pea gravel. This shock-absorbing surface should extend at least 6 feet in all directions around the equipment. The playground should also be cleared of any tripping hazards, such as tree roots, rocks or pieces of concrete. Position equipment with metal surfaces in shady spots to prevent the children from suffering from contact burns.
Faulty playground equipment can cause serious injuries. The equipment must be painted with lead-free paint and shouldn't have any bolts or other parts sticking out. Play structures that are more than 30 inches high should be spaced at least 9 feet apart to prevent children from attempting to jump or climb from the one structure to the other. Elevated surfaces such as platforms and ramps should have guardrails. Check that no spaces exist in which children can get trapped, such as openings between ladder rungs or openings in guardrails. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that schools should not install heavy metal swings such as gliders or animal figures on which more than one child can ride at a time. Free swinging ropes and swinging exercise rings or trapeze bars could also pose a strangulation hazard. Avoid cargo nets with openings of between 17 and 28 inches because it can trap a child's head.
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