No standard playground equipment regulations exist in all 50 of the states. The National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS) advocates for adoption of the playground safety guidelines set up by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC.) By 2010, these CPSC guidelines are the regulatory playground standards in 16 states for any new public playgrounds.
When designing equipment layout, playground safety is a key element. It’s important to have separate play areas for younger and older children, with each area having age-appropriate equipment. Low shrubs that don’t interrupt sight lines of caregivers can set play areas apart. Benches and tables are another option. Playground standards also suggest that the layout separate individual activities, such as swinging, from areas where children play team sports like basketball. Slides facing away from the sun can help prevent a too hot surface for children to play on. Swings, merry-go-rounds, and slides must have safe exit points for children. For that reason, it’s often best to place them near the outer perimeter of the playground. Children with disabilities must have easy access to playground equipment and this must also be a factor in planning the playground’s layout.
Each piece of playground equipment should meet playground safety qualifications. The finishes on the metal should not present a health hazard to children. It must be impossible for children to remove any piece of hardware or modify any piece of equipment without the use of tools. Hook fasteners must require the strength of an adult to open them. The surface of the equipment must be smooth and designed in such a way that it can’t pinch or harm children. Materials used the construction of slides and other flat surfaces must not get hot to the point that a child may receive burns from touching them. The playground equipment must have coatings that are non-toxic and lead free. All playground equipment needs adequate anchoring in the ground.
Playground hazards fall into a number of categories. Crush hazards happen when a piece of playground equipment moves in such a way that it can potentially trap a child or his body parts. An example of this is an improperly secured see-saw. Entanglement hazards can catch a child’s clothing and pull him into a dangerous situation. A bolt protruding from a slide that catches a child’s clothing is an example. Impalement hazards may poke a child if the child rubs against them. Improperly secured bolts are an example. Strings and ropes should not make up any part of playground equipment, nor should children have jewellery or any other items of clothing on them that might pose a choking hazard. Any openings on playground equipment must be small enough that a child of any age cannot catch their head in them.
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