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LOOKING OUTSIDE THE BOX



Over the past 10-15 years there has been extensive guidelines developed concerning playground safety. All of the material written concerns the condition of the equipment and the safety surfacing under and around it. Operators and directors though should take a look outside the immediate play area to consider if there are any hazardous situations or conflicting activities. During the course of the safety inspections I conduct, I always look around the perimeter of the play area and analyze if there are any scenarios that could place children in danger. Here are some of the most common problems I run into to:

1.
Proximity to traffic, water, or athletic fields. Playgrounds that do not have fencing around them are fine, if they are far away from the above-mentioned hazards. Children can be out of ones sight in a matter of seconds. If playgrounds are near roads or parking lots, adult play activities, or water a fence should be placed around the playground equipment to insure that the children stay within the play area. Make sure the fence is the type that will not allow a child to pass through (such as a picket fence). 

2.
Unwanted shrubs. I commonly find poison ivy, pricker bushes, and plants with poisonous berries on them in close proximity to playground areas. Children can be found among these plants and be subjected to a hazardous situation in an instant. Careful attention should be given to identify and remove all unwanted shrubbery from the playground facility. 

3.
Location of Trash Receptacles: Where it is recommended that trash bins be found at playground facilities, they should be placed away from the heavy use areas. During warm weather trash bins are very attractive to bees, hornets, and wasps. Young children are more susceptible to harsh reactions from stings than adults. Making sure that trash bins are in view but away from play areas, and making sure that trash is collected on a regular basis will help prevent children from bee stings.

4.
Tree Branches: Look above the playground equipment to make sure that no branches are encroaching within the immediate play area. Children can launch themselves off of a elevated deck or platform and grab onto the branches. Also if you identify any dead branches above the play area, they should be removed so the do not break and fall into the play area.

Each play facility is different, and there are other hazardous conditions outside the play area that I have not covered. Common sense though is your best tool in identifying any hazardous situations surrounding a playground facility.