What if any serious injuries have we reduced over the past 30 years? For more than 30 years the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has been gathering and analyzing injury data. During this time, falls to the surface have been the leading cause of playground injuries requiring medical attention. Fall-related injuries continue to be one of the four leading causes of death on playgrounds. The debate on whether the percentage of injuries due to falls has increased or decreased since the CPSC began analyzing injury data will continue but we cannot deny falls are still the number one cause of injuries requiring medical attention.
Most child development centers and other early childhood facilities provide playground equipment for their attendees. PlaySafe, LLC conducts audits at many of these playgrounds, and we have found that it is common for the areas to be designed for children older than the intended users. When designing a playground for this type of learning environment, there are three age groups with vastly different needs to keep in mind. The Public Playground Safety Handbook – 325, written by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, covers all three groups and lists them as Toddlers (6 to 23 months), Preschool (2-5 years), and School Age (5-12 years).
THE QUESTION: Which came first? The chicken or the egg. Man has been pondering this question forever and now I feel like I am in the middle of the same conundrum with regards to performance requirements for play equipment versus performance requirements for impact attenuation surfaces within the play equipment use zone.
My staff and I conduct playground safety audits all over the country and we often find confusion (by owners, designers, users, and maintenance crews) on what type of equipment should be reviewed to the playground standards. My hope is that the following article can provide some clarification to the confusion. As with many aspects of life, there is a lot of gray and very little black and white on this issue, and I would strongly suggest contacting your equipment manufacturer to receive their opinions.