Staying Safe on the Playground

Staying Safe on the Playground

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Deanie Wimmer More than six thousand Utah children are injured on school playgrounds every year, seriously enough to require medical attention. Injuries abound, even though playgrounds are safer today than ever before.

Many of us can remember when asphalt was under the monkey bars. Playgrounds have improved, but some are safer than others.

Here are some standards you should look for, to help your help kids Stay Safe on the playground.

Savanna Walker: "The monkey bars were too slippery and I fell. I had to scream. I couldn't even walk."

Every hour, a Utah child is injured at school. usually on the playground.

Reporter: “What do you think of these monkey bars now? Savanna Walker: “I don't like them."

Utah has been one of the first states to start tracking playground injuries. There are at least six thousand every year, serious enough to require medical attention.

The most accident prone place on the playground: By far, the monkey bars. The most common injury: Sprains or broken bones to arms and hands.

Cyndi Bemis State Health Department: "The numbers are high, but the good news is there are lots of schools and districts going out and looking at their playgrounds finding ways to make them safer."

But not every public park meets the same standards or inspections. Before you send your kids off to any playground, we followed an inspector to see what reduces kids' risk of getting hurt."

Scott Zigich, Risk Manager, Davis School District: "A big difference in the materials is the wood over metal."

Scott Zigich knows what to look for, he's the risk manager for Davis School District. They're phasing out wood toys which cause splinters and attract bees, and phasing in safer, metal equipment.

One of the most important changes: Out with sand, in with wood chips. But not just any, they're specially manufactured to be soft.

Scott Zigich,Risk Manager, Davis School District: “We've gone to an engineered wood chip because it doesn't compact, stays in place and gives it a softer cushion to fall."

Signs on the equipment tell what age of child is safe playing here. They inspect daily looking for protruding bolts or pinch points that could hurt kids.

They're finding even current fashions are playing a role in injuries. Popular flip flops and platform shoes are leading to more foot injuries. Hoodie tops or ponchos have lead to some serious choking problems.

Scott Zigich,Risk Manager, Davis School District:: The way that this extends, a student could potentially catch the back of a hoodie or a drawstring in these pinch points and could be suspended by their own weight and would not be able to lift themselves off. So potentially a hanging."

Beyond the equipment itself, State Health statistics also show lack of supervision is a contributing factor in 40-percent of playground injuries. It's a point of concern with parents who've spent recent time in the emergency room.

Matt Walker, Parent: I think that with the monkey bars and these playgrounds, they just let the kids run wild and whatever happens, happens."

The state is admittedly working with schools to better train playground monitors. But when school's out, that responsibility will fall to parents.

Cyndi Bemis ,State Health Department: “As we're heading into summer, kids are still going to be playing on playground equipment, either at the school that's in their neighborhood because it's open for the summer, or at a neighborhood park. Parents can take a big role in keeping their children safe at these locations."

Those six thousand playground injuries are only the ones reported. Health officials suspect injuries are actually much higher.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at driving safety, and a serious problem in Utah that in past year has doubled.

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