Each year in California, more than 1,000 children suffer injuries at playgrounds. In some cases, the childs parents choose to file a lawsuit against the owner or operator of the facility for negligence, either as a result of improperly erecting or maintaining the equipment and surrounding area. This recently occurred in Orange County, where a 4-year-old girl fell from a play set and suffered serious injury, including fractures to her arm, explains a local lawyer. An investigation of the play set and grounds around it by a certified playground safety inspector revealed several safety violations.
The safety violations involved the height of the play set, the surface materials placed underneath it, and the signage posted around the playground. The play set was much higher than California and federal safety standards allow: it was 87 inches high instead of 60 inches. Compounding the risk of injury was the fact that the wrong type of sand was placed under the play set: instead of fine sand, which absorbs impacts well, quartz sand was used. This type of sand does not compact easily, over time adopting the consistency of concrete. Not only was the child playing on a structure that was too high, the impact of her fall was more severe because the surface underneath her was extremely hard. Lastly, there were no signs indicating the age appropriateness of the equipment.
To parents without a comprehensive knowledge of the laws regulating the measurements, materials, and other features of playgrounds, these violations would not have been immediately apparenta disturbing fact when one considers that annually playground injuries send more than 200,000 children to hospital emergency rooms.
Unfortunately, out of ignorance or unscrupulousness, the owners and operators of playgrounds do not always keep them up to code. Consequently, parents must educate themselves on the risks children face at playgrounds.
Given that falls are the leading cause of playground injury, parents should pay attention to the height of equipment and the surface materials used underneath. Wood chips work well to cushion falls and are among the most commonly used material; however, they must be laid at least 9 inches deep to effectively prevent injuries. Fine sand, pea gravel, rubber tiles, and mats are among other materials that are safe to use as surfaces under playground equipment. Parents should never allow their children to play above concrete, blacktop, packed earth, or grass.
As the accident that recently occurred in Orange County illustrates, there can be many safety hazards at playgrounds that an untrained eye would never catch, explains a local lawyer. Just as parents take precautions like using child safety seats, they should stay informed about playground safety to prevent their children from suffering injuries.