How Safe is Your Backyard Playground Equipment?
Before you jump into installing the swing set you got for your kids this Christmas, consider the following… Backyard playground safety begins even before the playground equipment has been constructed and installed. Hopefully this information will assist you in planning and creating a safe backyard playground for your children and their friends.
The Best Location for Your Backyard Playground Equipment
Choosing the ideal location for your new playground equipment is the first step in ensuring backyard playground safety. Avoid sloping areas – level ground helps prevent playground equipment from tipping over. In addition, select an area that is away from potentially hazardous 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 backyard playground equipment; set aside even more space in front of and behind swings.
Protective Playground Surfaces
Once you have chosen the safest location for your backyard playground, the next step is to select an appropriate type of protective surface for under the equipment. Grass and dirt are the most common surfaces found under backyard playgrounds, but they are not adequate protection against injuries due to falls. Pea gravel, sand, wood chips, and shredded or recycled rubber mulch are some examples of protective playground surface options. Each protective surface option has its own specific minimum depth recommendations.
Backyard Playground Construction Materials
One of the most common materials used to construct playground equipment is wood. Wooden Swing Set equipment should be treated to resist rotting and insects. Cedar and Redwood are two recommended wood types for wooden playground construction because they are naturally resistant to rotting and insect damage. ACQ pressure treated wood is also a good choice.
Safe 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. Be sure to cap any exposed bolts – these can cause serious cuts or entangle loose clothing. In addition, close all S hooks so that openings are less than the thickness of a dime. Carabineers, like those used in mountain climbing and other adventure sports, can be used as an alternative to S hooks to attach the top of each swing to the swing beam hardware.
Once the playground equipment has been chosen, constructed, and installed, the following guidelines will further ensure the safety of children who enjoy the playground equipment:
- Bike helmets should not be worn on play sets 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 the backyard playground equipment should be supervised at all times by a parent or other responsible adult.
Maintaining Your Backyard Playground for Safety
Ensuring playground safety means maintaining the equipment over time. Bolts, nuts, caps, chains, cables, and other equipment should be checked periodically for wear and tear and replaced as needed. In addition, protective playground surfaces like pea gravel, mulch, and sand may need to be replenished.
Having the most fun possible is a child’s only concern when it comes to backyard playground equipment. With proper planning and implementation of the playground safety recommendations, you can rest assured that you will have created a play space for your children that is not only fun, but safe.