How to Spot Unsafe Playground Equipment and What to Do About It

Safe playground equipment is ultimately the manufacturer’s responsibility, but diligence on the part of parents and supervisors can help protect children from hazards. Unsafe playground equipment is a more common occurrence than many parents realize, often due to manufacturer negligence in design or assembly. More than 200,000 children in the U.S. have to seek treatment for playground-related injuries every year. When parents spot dangerous playground equipment and respond appropriately, they can prevent child injury and fatalities.

How to Check for Safe Playground Equipment

Before you let you child play on any public or private playground, perform a visual inspection of the equipment. Check the ground surfaces, as a common cause of playground injury is falling to a hard surface. The ground should be covered in materials such shredded rubber, sand, wood chips, or mulch. It should never be concrete or blacktop, as a fall onto these hard surfaces will result in injury. Grass and packed earth can also be dangerous, as weathering can make them unable to cushion a child’s fall. Safe ground materials should extend at least six feet beyond the equipment’s perimeter.

There should be no dangerous debris on the playground, such as sharp sticks, pieces of metal, or broken glass. Toys, roots, and rocks can cause children to trip and fall while playing. Spills or standing water can also cause slip and fall accidents. Next, look at the equipment for signs of damage, defects, or negligent maintenance. Equipment should show no signs of damage, such as splintered wood or rusty metal. Maintenance crews should repair any loose parts, holes in fencing, and protruding sharp objects.

A safe playground has protective barriers on all elevated surfaces. Playgrounds should not have any animal droppings on surfaces or in the sandbox. Ensure the spacing between swings on a swing-set is at least 24 inches wide, with at least 30 inches between the swing and the support frame. Equipment with moving parts, such as swings and merry-go- rounds, should have their own separate area on the playground. Inspect these pieces for pinch points that can cause crush injuries. A playground should clearly separate equipment designed for younger children from an older age group’s equipment.

Equipment That is Never Safe for Children

Different organizations have concluded that some types of playground equipment is inherently dangerous, even if functioning correctly. If you spot any of these pieces of equipment, don’t let children play on them and report it to the property owner. The following types of equipment are never safe for children:

If you notice any of these pieces of equipment, or equipment that is damaged or inherently dangerous, report it to the owner of the property or the supervisor of the playground. Mark off the equipment as unsafe so children do not risk injury. Report inherently dangerous pieces ofequipment to to spread awareness of the issue and prevent other children from injury.