Planning and Assembling a Safe Playground
Home playground safety should begin even before the equipment has been purchased and assembled. This article, and the two subsequent articles, will help you as you plan for and create a safe home playground experience for your children and their friends.
Choose the best location for your new playground equipment:
- Avoid ground that slopes or is uneven. Level ground helps prevent playground equipment from tipping.
- Select an area that is away from potentially dangerous obstacles such as trees, low branches and wires, stumps, roots, large rocks, fences, bricks, and concrete.
- Plan for a safety zone of at least 6 feet around all playground equipment; set aside even more space in front of and behind swings.
- Think about where you plan to position any metal or dark-colored slides or surfaces. Placing these out of direct sunlight can help prevent burns on hot, sunny days.
Select an appropriate type of protective surface for under and around the equipment:
- Grass and dirt are not adequate protection from injuries due to falls.
- Pea gravel, sand, wood chips, and shredded or recycled rubber mulch are some recommended protective playground surface options. (More details on the topic of protective playground surfaces is covered in the second article in this series.)
Use appropriate hardware for playground equipment:
- Use the bolts and screws recommended by the manufacturer of your playground equipment. Lock washers or self-locking nuts are essential to prevent bolts from loosening over time.
- Cap any exposed bolts. Exposed bolts can cause serious cuts or entangle loose clothing.
- Close all S hooks so that openings are less than the thickness of a dime.
- All playground equipment hardware should be resistant to corrosion.
Prevent tripping dangers:
- Always follow manufacturer instructions for anchoring your playground equipment to the protective playground surface.
- Watch for exposed anchors, hooks, and bolts, which can cause tripping and other injuries.
- Bury anchors and all other ground-level hazards under the playground surface, or cover them with protective surfacing.
Additional installation guidelines recommended by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC):
- All rungs, steps, posts, and railings should be evenly spaced.
- Openings between rungs, steps, posts, and railings should either b e smaller than 3 inches wide or larger than 9 inches so children cannot become stuck.
- Guard rails or barriers are needed around any platform over 30 inches above the protective playground surface.
- The entrance area for the slide should not have any gaps or protrusions that could catch or entangle clothing.
- V-shaped angles that open upward and are less than 55-degrees should be filled with a solid barrier (gusset) because these angles can trap a child’s head or neck.
Once the playground equipment is ready for use, follow these recommended safety guidelines during children’s play:
- Bike helmets should not be worn on playground equipment because they cannot pass through some spaces and children can become trapped. Strangulation by the helmet’s chinstrap is a potential danger.
- Ropes, jump ropes, clotheslines, or pet leashes should never be attached to playground equipment because they can be a strangulation hazard.
- Children who use home playground equipment should be supervised at all times by a parent or other responsible adult.
Having the most fun possible is a child’s only concern when it comes to home playground equipment. With proper planning and implementation of the playground safety recommendations presented in this article and in the series of articles to follow, you can rest assured that you will have created a play space for your children that is not only fun, but safe.
For more information about backyard playground equipment safety, visit the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Outdoor Home Playground Safety Handbook.