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Heat - A Hidden Playground Hazard

Now that we are in the hottest part of the summer, there is a special concern about using playground equipment-the heat.

Children's skin will start to burn at a temperature of 130 degrees according to Brett Roberts of the Tarrytown NY Ambulance Corp. Young children have delayed reflexes so even though they feel the heat, they may not react immediately. The severity of a burn is determined by both the temperature and the exposure time of contact. The longer the exposure, the more severe the burn.

In the direct sun, stainless steel slides can cause burns in a matter of seconds on hands, buttocks and the back of legs. Even dark colored plastic play equipment has been measured by a Playground Medic certified inspector to reach 148 degrees in direct sun when the air temperature was 85 degrees.

Playground owners should provide warnings so playground visitors are aware of the possibility of hot play equipment. Before use supervisors and caregivers should feel the equipment, to be sure children are not allowed to play on equipment that might burn them.

Playground surfacing, particularly black or a dark color, gets even hotter than the play equipment. A dark surface, in the full sun, can be above 170 degrees. Needless to say, footwear should be required on playgrounds at all times regardless of the temperature because of the possibility of infection.

Care should be taken to keep very young children who are still crawling, off the playground surface and playground equipment during hot days and hottest times of the days.

Public awareness about this hidden danger is being raised by the numerous articles about the effects of children being exposed to hot playground equipment. The New York State Legislature is considering a bill to require playground owners to do heat testing. The ASTM playground committees have a task force that is working on developing standards for heat retention in play equipment and surfacing. New products are coming on the market to diffuse the heat retained by playground surfacing.

Summer should be a time to enjoy playgrounds so everyone must do their part to keep the experience as safe as possible.

Have a safe and enjoyable summer!