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Avoid these Violations: How to Keep Children Safe at Your Playground

Industry Insights

Kids do and will get injured on the playground. Sometimes, it’s unavoidable. But what if it’s your fault? Avoid playground violations and negligence claims by following these simple guidelines to uphold the highest standards.

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Warmer months are around the corner! Children will be spending longer hours playing outside and more time frolicking at the local jungle gym. Your community playgrounds are a great place for children to develop a healthy sense of physical play, but they can be highly unsafe if not properly maintained. According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Public Playground Safety Handbook, a dozen children per year die from playground accidents and over 200,000 are treated for injuries at the Emergency Room – with 44% of these being attributed to falls from equipment, followed by 23% caused by breakage, tip-over, bad design or poor assembly of playground equipment. But such tragedies are highly preventable when you have a plan for frequently and thoroughly inspecting your playground areas.

Are you protecting your children from injury?


You can ensure the playground is a safe place for the community by diligently inspecting for avoidable hazards and maintaining comprehensive records of completed inspection checklists. Here are some major violations to look out for when evaluating the safety of a playground.

The greatest source of injury for children involves the lack of adequate surfacing. Mitigate the risk of life-threatening head injuries by ensuring that playground surfacing is made of appropriate shock-absorbent material.

The U.S. CPSC recommends supplying at least 12 inches of mulch, wood chips, sand, pea gravel or rubber-like surfacing materials on your playgrounds at all times. The protective surfacing should extend at least 6 feet beyond playground equipment with a perimeter that is twice the height of the swing structure. See the official surfacing guidelines below:

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Adequate Surfacing Guidelines

Sourced from the Public Playground Safety Handbook

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Playground equipment and surfacing should always be kept in good condition. Apart from inspecting for the obvious damage – cracks, loose bolts, protrusions, slick surfaces, wood splitting, rusted metals, holes, flaking and buckling, inspectors should keep an eye out for dangerous design.

Playground Swings

For example, platforms and ramps over 30” high should have protective guard rails, and elevated structures should be safely spaced 9 feet apart. Also, make sure any openings in equipment that could cause head entrapment (another common hazard pattern) measure less than 3.5 inches or more than 9.5 inches in width or diameter, and the bottom of slides measure no more than 12 inches off the ground. Opt for quality, IPEMA-certified plastic or metal equipment and avoid wooden playground items that chemically degenerate over time.

Playground Swings


For example, platforms and ramps over 30” high should have protective guard rails, and elevated structures should be safely spaced 9 feet apart. Also, make sure any openings in equipment that could cause head entrapment (another common hazard pattern) measure less than 3.5 inches or more than 9.5 inches in width or diameter, and the bottom of slides measure no more than 12 inches off the ground. Opt for quality, IPEMA-certified plastic or metal equipment and avoid wooden playground items that chemically degenerate over time.

Are you protecting yourself from negligence lawsuits and liability?


Shelly Gil, Regional Manager at Tarragon Property Services, has her team conduct regular playground inspections across Tarragon’s 3100 multifamily homes. Gil discusses how diligent reporting prevented a negligence lawsuit. “Recently, a child was playing on a playground at one of our sites where the play chips were not deep enough from the end of the slide to the ground. The child got hurt and made a claim. Luckily, we had the playground inspection report that showed we diligently looked over the playground for any hazards and the chips were in good condition the day prior. The claim was effectively dismissed.”

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"Luckily, we had the playground inspection report that showed we diligently looked over the playground for any hazards and the chips were in good condition the day prior. The claim was effectively dismissed."

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Shelly Gil
Regional Manager, Tarragon Property Services

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Start by getting familiar with the official playground safety guidelines in the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Handbook for Public Playground Safety. The Handbook has been compiled by the Commission for over 35 years, and details everything from types of multiple surface layering to quality of child supervision for injury prevention. Playground Equipment USA recommends getting an annual playground inspection performed by a CPSI (Certified Playground Safety Inspector) which serves as an exhaustive complement to the weekly or quarterly checks performed by your maintenance team. They also urge making your playgrounds wheelchair accessible and compliant with the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) by reinforcing the area with transfer platforms and finely ground wood carpets.

Next, install appropriate signage detailing playground hours of operations, adult supervision warnings, and ages permitted. You can be so detailed as to include a list of clothing to avoid (e.g. drawstrings that tangle with ropes and equipment) so your residents and neighbors are fully informed when it comes to preventing accidents. It also doesn’t hurt to lock the playground premises when not in use to further avoid personal injury claims, especially those that may occur during off-hours.

Upset Child

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Do you have a foolproof inspection process in place?

Conducting regular inspections reduces legal liability and keeps your community playgrounds beautiful.

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About the author

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Yuliya Maystruk
Marketing Operations

LA native Yuliya Maystruk is a marketing specialist with a unique background in B2B marketing, entertainment management, and audio visual advertising. She obtained a dual degree in Political Science and Communications Studies from her sunny hometown at UCLA (Go Bruins!). Apart from leading marketing operations at HappyCo, Yuliya enjoys live music, traveling the globe, high intensity fitness, and scouting for the best almond milk latte in town.

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