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SALT LAKE CITY -- Safety advocates have proclaimed this week National Playground Safety Week. It's a good time for all of us to get reacquainted with potential hazards on our neighborhood playgrounds.
At the top of the list of dirty dozen playground hazards: grass, dirt and wood chips that are too shallow; none provide enough protective surface. Guidelines suggest 9 inches of chips, mulch or a whole array of new high-tech options.
"There's about 200,000 injuries every year that are reported in the emergency room come from playground injuries, and 70 percent of them are from falls to the surfacing," said Elouise Bird, president of Sof'Solutions, a Utah company helping children play safe.
With that in mind, another dirty dozen: fall zones, where the protective surface doesn't extend at least 6 feet beyond equipment or where obvious tripping hazards could cause injuries.
Bad equipment, according to federal safety advocates, shouldn't be on public playgrounds. Poor maintenance, like exposed bolts, is also on the playground dirty dozen list.
Finally, entrapment hazards; kids could get their heads stuck in some equipment. "One of the hazards you need to check for on playground equipment are ropes that are hanging up. You need to get those removed immediately so kids are not tempted to wrap them around and become strangled," Bird said.
Another tip on a popular clothing item: take the strings out of your kids' hoodies so they don't get hung up on equipment.
Additionally, Sof'Solutions offers the following tips to help in the prevention of injuries and other hazards to children playing on both public and home playgrounds:
- Always supervise children on play equipment to make sure that they are safe at all times.
- The surface around the playground equipment should be soft enough to cushion a fall.
- For swings, extend protective surfacing in both directions of the swing, twice the height of the swing's suspending bar.
- Enclosed openings on playground equipment must be checked for head entrapment hazards. Children often enter openings feet first and attempt to slide through the opening. If the opening is not large enough, it may allow the body to pass through the opening and entrap the head.
- Playground maintenance is critical to ensure the play area remains safe for children. There should be no missing, broken, or worn-out components; all hardware should be secure, repair sharp points or edges, replace missing hardware and close "S" hooks, and all parts should be stable with no apparent sign of loosening.
- Trip hazards are created by play structure components or items left/attached to the playground. Never attach ropes, jump ropes, clotheslines, pet leashes, or any cord of any kind to play equipment, as these will pose a strangulation hazard.