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Article and photos courtesy of February 2012 issue Landscape Architect and Specifier News.
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Children's Playground Fall Safety: What You Don't Know Can Hurt Them
March 1st, 2012 - People are shocked when they learn that many of the parks in the U.S. have playground safety surfaces that are not safe, or can cause disease on top of injury. Most playground surfaces aren't maintained properly, so they lack the appropriate safety, even if they were installed properly.
Many often say, "Hey, when we were kids, we played on dirt, grass, even concrete and asphalt...and we survived."
While that may be true, facts don't lie. Since the creation of Safe Kids (1988), a global network of organizations dedicated to preventing accidental childhood injuries, their efforts have helped reduce fatal accidents by 45 percent in the United States alone.
However, another Safe Kids report states that the public playground injury rate among children ages five and under doubled from 1980 to 2000. The more recent 2007 Safe Kids report shared that there was an increase of 21 percent in fall-related deaths for children in the United States from 2000-2004.
There are some arguably fundamental flaws regarding the data used for establishing playground safety standards, testing parameters and equipment. Most of what we know about playground impact safety comes from automotive industry testing that uses cadavers and volunteers. Most certified playground inspectors admit they don't feel many playground safety surfaces commonly sold as "safe" are truly safe for the playgrounds they are installed in.
As playground safety continues to be a problem, and a complex one, this discussion will continue in a future issue. In that issue we will compare different types of playground surfaces, their relative safety, maintenance requirements, initial and ongoing costs, and longevity.
By Michael Baldwin; as seen in the February 2012 issue of Landscape Architect and Specifier News