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Sometimes the safety of playgrounds is disputed in school or among regulators. Over at least the last twenty years, the kinds of equipment to be found in playgrounds has changed, often towards safer equipment built with modern materials. For example, an older jungle gym might be constructed entirely from steel bars, while newer ones tend to have a minimal steel framework while providing a web of nylon ropes for children to climb on. Playgrounds with equipment that children may fall off often use mulch on the ground to help break their falls.[1] Rubber mulch is gaining popularity due to its added ability to break falls[2].

A study done by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that playground injuries were responsible for 23 visits a day to emergency rooms in Ontario, Canada. The largest proportion of these visits were for orthopedic and head injuries (51% and 22% respectively.) In the United States, approximately 200,000 emergency room visits occur each year because of accidents on commercial and residential playgrounds.[3].

In the United States the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American National Standards Institute have created a Standardized Document and Training System for certification of Playground Safety Inspectors. These regulations are nation wide and provide a basis for safe playground installation and maintenance practices. ASTM F1487-07 deals with specific requirements regarding issues such as play ground layout, use zones, and various test criteria for determining play ground safety. ASTM F2373 covers public use play equipment for children 6-24 months old. This information can be applied effectively only by a trained C.P.S.I. A National Listing of Trained Playground Safety Inspectors is available for many states. A Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) is a career that was developed by the National Playground Safety Institute (NPSI) and is recognized nationally by the National Recreation and Park Association or N.R.P.A. (Some information sources offer interactive examples of playground equipment that violates CPSC guidelines.)

European Standards EN 1177 specifies the requirements for surfaces used in playgrounds. For each material type and height of equipment it specifies a minimum depth of material required.[4] EN 1176 covers playground equipment standards.[5][6] In the UK playground inspectors can sit the examinations of the Register of Play Inspectors International at the three required levels - routine, operational and annual. Annual inspectors are able to undertake the post-installation inspections recommended by EN 1176.

The risk aversion of prioritising safety above other factors, such as cost or developmental benefit to the users, is often forgotten.[7] It is important than children gradually develop the skill of risk assessment, and a completely safe environment does not allow that. A playscape or forest kindergarten are steps towards a balanced approach to risk.

See also

References

  1. EPA Playground Surfaces http://www.epa.gov/waste/conserve/tools/cpg/products/playgrnd.htm
  2. [1] Detroit Testing Laboratory
  3. [2] U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Tips for Public Playground Safety, Publication #324
  4. http://www.en1177.com/en1177.htm EN 1177 - Impact Absorbing Playground Surfacing
  5. http://www.rospa.com/playsafety/info/10_en1176.htm The Royal Society for the prevention of Accidents: EN1176 Playground Equipment Standard
  6. http://www.smp.co.uk/cust_services/pdf/EN1176.pdf SMP Specifiers Guide to EN 1176 parts 1 To 7 Playground Equipment (A light-hearted guide)
  7. Gill, Tim (2007). No fear: Growing up in a Risk Averse society, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

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