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SAFETY CHECKLIST

Playgrounds and outdoor play equipment can provide your child with fun, fresh air and exercise, but they can also pose some safety hazards. Faulty equipment, substandard and improper surfaces, wrong materials used and careless planning are just a few of the dangers that cause children on playgrounds to be rushed to hospital emergency departments. Each year, more than 200,000 kids are treated in hospital ERs for playground-related injuries. Simply using the right kind of playground equipment that meets with international standards could have prevented many of these injuries. Accidents are bound to happen, but remember when you install playground equipment from a reputed brand that has their products tested and certified to meet international safety standards such as EN1176, ASTM, AS4685 or NZS4486 [Europe, America's, Australia and New Zealand's highest safety standard certification given to playground equipment] then an accident is an "accident". When you use cheap products that have safety issues and an accident happens then it amounts to "NEGLIGENCE". The playground industry is a very scientific industry and it is one of the most regulated and controlled fields in the world, purely due to the fact that little children use these products in open spaces and it involves their safety.

 

You can easily make the playground a place that's entertaining and safe for your children by checking equipment for potential hazards and following some simple safety guidelines. In addition, teaching your children how to play safely is important: if your children know the rules of the playground, it's less likely he or she will get hurt. The easiest way to achieve this is to have a safety board prominently displayed at every single entry and exit points of the play area.

 

The majority of playground related injuries occur among elementary school-aged children. The most common mechanism of injury is falling from equipment or cuts and bruises from sub-standard equipment, the head and face are most commonly injured. However, in older children, the extremities are most frequent. The most common diagnoses are fractures, followed by soft tissue injuries and lacerations.

 

A FEW TIPS THAT YOU MAY WANT TO CONSIDER PRIOR TO DECIDING WHAT KIND OF PLAYGROUND YOU WOULD LIKE FOR YOUR PROJECT

 

SAFETY CHECK

 

Does the playground system you intend to buy, comply with 'International Safety Standards'?. Safety standards if not met can prove a catastrophe waiting to happen. The play systems must be age appropriate considering several safety aspects.

 

QUALITY CHECK

 

Quality goes hand in hand with safety. Metal parts must undergo all internationally prescribed treatment procedures to ensure that they will not rust or corrode over a period of time. Rust & corrosion are major hazards to child safety. Similarly, all plastic parts must have minimum wall thickness and must be made out of non-toxic raw materials.

 

DESIGN CHECK

 

Design is as important for safety as it is to aesthetics. Your playground supplier must be able to back his systems with an in-house design team that is well trained in terms of designing base plan layouts with safe areas, exit points, fall points etc. Your playground supplier must himself be well aware about prevailing international safety norms prior to designing your base plan.

 

AESTHETICS CHECK

 

Your playground is the first outdoor amenity that will meet the eye of any prospective buyer. Hence, your playground supplier must be able to deliver unique designs, vibrant colours and most importantly, a system that will not rust, corrode or deteriorate over a period of time which will then become an eyesore to your project. Ask your vendor to submit their sections for testing as many vendors sell systems at lesser price which eventually begin to deteriorate in a few months. Your vendor must also provide you with a written warranty on the equipment supplied.

 

CHECK WHAT RAW MATERIAL IS USED

 

A reputed playground brand should be able to give you detailed specifications about what kind of raw material they use in their systems. Check what kind of treatment their metal parts have undergone [ask for sections to substantiate their claims], check if they have used any fibre glass or if they use recycled plastic as this would bring your systems life down by 1/4th as compared to virgin LLPDE. Ask your vendor for sections of their metal and plastic parts so you can get them tested to ascertain if what they are telling you about their quality is true or not.

 

CHECK THE SUPPLIER’S BACKGROUND

 

Check what kind of projects & installations have already been completed by your supplier and what kind of clientele uses their products. This will give you in-depth knowledge of their track record. Suppliers whose products are being sold in international markets have to ensure their products pass through EN Certifications prior to their products entering these markets. Using such brands / suppliers ensures that the systems you buy have also passed through ENC.

 

CHECK THE SUPPLIER'S INSTALLATION INFRASTRUCTURE

 

A playground system could be extremely dangerous if not installed properly. Remember children are not ‘trained users’. If a playground has not been installed by a trained / knowledgeable installation team it could come apart and hurt a child and prove extremely dangerous. Again check track records on your supplier’s installation team, ask for project references where they have installed their systems.

 

WARRANTY CHECK - THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT

 

Check who is giving you the warranty? Warranty received from an 'importer or an agent' is a third party warranty which means that he has to fall back upon the principal he is importing from. He may or may not continue to import from the same factory the next year and under such a scenario, if any part is to be replaced, you will be at the mercy of ‘relying upon their reliance’. Warranties that you get directly from a Brand itself assure you of ready replacement as parts are locally stocked. When you invest a couple of lakhs on procuring equipment, you surely do not want your systems to rust or break or corrode and then not have anyone to be accountable for what they have supplied. A brand is most concerned about their brand image and hence will never compromise on quality or service.

 

As we mentioned earlier the playground industry is a highly scientific industry, the EN1176 and ASTM manuals itself are over 86 pages long. To have a product tested and certified means that both the design of the product and the raw material used conforms to international safety standards. It is also important for you to have your playground installed by a trained installation team. Playground safety starts from design [your play area must be designed by an EN or ASTM trained design team].

 

There are some brief recommended guidelines for playground spaces. These standards are intended to improve playground safety and reduce the frequency and severity of playground injuries. Many playground manufacturers even today, do not comply with these standards, which if done will surely be effective in reducing the risk of injury and enhance child safety. We urge you to join us in bringing this industry to the same levels as in the west; after all you do make world-class buildings, this is the least we can do for our children. Let’s be SAFE….. Never SORRY !!!

 

We at team Koochie will be more than happy to address any queries that you may have. Not only on our products but also on issues such as prevailing practices on international playground.

 

Use products that are manufactured from the right raw material

 
  • We do not advocate the use of fiberglass products. Fiberglass (also called fibreglass and glass fibre) is material made from extremely fine fibers of glass. It is used as a reinforcing agent for many polymer products; the resulting material, properly known as fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) or glass-reinforced plastic (GRP), is called "fiberglass" in popular usage. Fiberglass parts are basically made out of many layers bonded together with resin. Unlike plastic roto-moulded products wherein the entire plastic is moulded into one single mould thus making it a total composite unit [there are no layers or pieces bonded together - the entire plastic is one single composite unit when moulded] fiberglass over a period of time tends to wear and layers tend to break off or chip off. This proves a serious safety hazard as children who use such slides, climbers, will injure themselves against these broken / chipped areas. Fiberglass parts are seldom UV stable whilst PLASTIC parts made from virgin LLDPE granules are far more UV Stable. This is why the colours on plastic parts do not fade as quick and as much as fiber glass parts. Fiber glass parts seldom have a large mould, which is why you will find many joints on items such as S Slides etc., unlike seamless / joint less S slides made from plastic.

  • Fiberglass has also been known to elevate asthma and cause cancer, see this link from the LANCE ARMSTRONG CANCER FOUNDATION: http://www.livestrong.com/article/124778-fiberglass-breathing-danger-effects/#ixzz1DM2n1HYP

  • Use products that have certified lead free paints, remember lead is poisonous.

  • Recycled plastics normally also contain lead as lead helps add bulk and is cheap.

Prevention strategies: Because the majority of playground injuries are due to falls from equipment, prevention efforts should be directed at reducing the risk of falls and their impact. This reduction may be accomplished by using equipment that has been designed according to international safety standards.

 

Reduce the maximum fall height of equipment. Strategies include:

 

  • Ensure that you have playgrounds to reduce the fall height to a maximum of 1.5 m (5 ft) for preschool-aged children and 2.3 m (7 ft) for school-aged children. Ideally you need to have separate play areas for different age groups.

  • Using innovative designs for new equipment with lower heights; and

  • Using age-appropriate equipment.

Reduce the likelihood of falling from equipment. Some examples include:

 

  • Using protective barriers and guardrails: these must confirm to international safety norms [for example charter 4.2.4.2 of the EN1176 safety standards clearly states that Handrails shall be not less than 600 mm and not more than 850 mm above the foot position.

  • Similarly charter 4.2.4.3 of the EN1176 safety standard clearly details how Guardrails must be manufactured: For equipment other than that which is easily accessible, guardrails shall be provided when the platform is 1000 mm to 2000 mm above the playing surface. The height to the top of the guardrail shall be not less than 600 mm and not more than 850 mm measured from the surface of the platform, stairs or ramp. Guardrails shall completely surround the platform except for entrance and exit openings necessary for each play element. The width of entrance and exit openings in guardrails, with the exception of stairs, ramps and bridges, shall have a maximum clear opening of 500 mm. For stairs, ramps and bridges the width of the exit opening in the guardrail shall be no greater than the width of these elements.

  • Openings in the Barrier of easily accessible equipment/parts of equipment that give access to steep play elements shall conform to the requirements of 4.2.9.4 of the EN1176 safety standard. For all other equipment, openings in the barrier provided with a guardrail, which give access to steep play elements, shall not be greater than 1200 mm

  • Never use retro fitted parts with original parts as a mix and match, remember the unit was never designed for this. Many a time plastic parts are bought and then metal parts are fabricated locally [to bring costs down] and the two are put together to try and imitate a factory made playground unit, this creates a miss-match in terms of how the metal and plastic parts will join. 99.9% of the times these will not pass international safety standards and cause severe hazards that will definitely lead to injuries.

Improve the protective surfacing under and around play equipment. Appropriate surfaces include:

 

  • Recycled rubber flooring [a most cost effective method is to use SBR tiles that meet critical fall height requirements – ask your supplier if their tiles have been tested and certified to meet EN1177 standards.

  • Loose fill, such as coarse sand or pea gravel (smooth, round, pea-sized stones);

  • Wood chips; and

  • Synthetic surfaces.

  • We do not recommend fine sand as the critical fall height of sand as tested by CPSC is only 5 feet, besides this sand is unhygienic, in addition the stones from sand get stuck in children’s shoes and damage the playground equipment over a period of time and usage thus reducing its life.

  • Depth recommendations for loose fill: minimum of 15 cm (6 inches) for preschool equipment; minimum of 30 cm (12 inches) for full-sized equipment.

OTHER REASONS FOR PLAYGROUND RELATED INJURIES:

 

  • Falls from and impact with equipment, within and around if the play area has not been designed properly.

  • Entanglement of ropes, leashes, or clothing and dangers of head, neck, arm and finger entrapment – this happens very frequently with retro fitted equipment.

  • The scale of equipment and other design features related to user age and layout of equipment on a playground, for example roller slides, the rollers come out after use and then the gaps become dangerous hazards due to which children get injured.

  • Installation and maintenance procedures wrongly followed, installation done by contract workers who are not trained.

  • General hazards presented by protrusions, sharp edges and crush or shear points

Are pieces of play equipment too close together?

 

Is there a lack of protective surfacing where children might fall? A fall zone is the area under and around a piece of play equipment where a child might fall. The fall zone should have protective surfacing and be free of other equipment or obstacles onto which a child might fall. If two pieces of adjacent stationary play equipment are no more than 30 inches in height, their fall zones may overlap with a minimum distance between structures of 6 feet. If adjacent equipment is higher than 30 inches, the minimum distance between structures should be 9 feet. For climbing equipment, merry-go-rounds, see-saws and spring rockers, the fall zone should extend a minimum of 6 feet in all directions from the perimeter of the equipment.

 

For slides, the fall zone behind the access ladder and to the sides of a slide should extend a minimum of 6 feet from the perimeter of the equipment. The fall zone in front of the exit of a slide should extend a minimum distance of 6 feet from the end of the slide chute or for a distance of H+4 feet, whichever is greater. H is the height of the slide platform.

 

For swings with conventional seats, the fall zone should extend a minimum of 6 feet from the perimeter of the support structure on each side as well as a minimum distance of twice the height of the pivot point in front of and behind the swing seats. The fall zone on the sides of a swing structure may overlap with that of an adjacent swing structure. But the fall zone in front of and behind the swings should not overlap with any other fall zone.

 

Is there any equipment too high above ground?

 

The highest climbing rung or platform on climbing equipment or the height of the top of a slide, for example, should not exceed:

 

  • 5 feet above the protective surfacing when designed for pre-school children.

  • 7 feet above the protective surfacing when designed for school children.

Are swings too heavy, too close together or too close to support structures?

 

Swing seats should not be made of wood, metal, or any other heavy, rigid materials. Heavy, hard hitting swings including animal swings, multiple occupancy swings such as gliders, swinging exercise rings and trapeze bars that may cause life threatening head injuries. To prevent such occurrence:

 

  • No more than two swing seats should be suspended in the same section of the support structure.

  • Swings with conventional seats or tot seats should have horizontal clearance of at least 24 inches between adjacent seats and 30 inches between the swing seat and an adjacent structural component.

Does the play equipment have any head entrapment hazards?

 

Any opening other than where the ground is the lower boundary with an interior dimension between 3.5 and 9 inches may cause head entrapment. Such incidents can result in strangulation. Entrapment may occur when a child enters an opening, either head first or feet first, but cannot withdraw his or her head because the opening is too small.

 

Does the play equipment have any entanglement hazards on which the children may catch clothing or anything else around their neck which could lead to strangulation?

 

Look for open "S" hooks, especially on swings. Ensure that there are no gaps, openings, holes, protrusions or equipment components which may act as hooks or catch points, especially at the top of slides. Roller slides are another hazard as the rollers tend to become lose and come apart thus creating dangerous gaps.

 

Does the play equipment or area have any exposed concrete footings or environmental obstacles, such as rocks or roots, which create trip hazards and may cause impact injuries?

 

Ensure that all base plates / footings are properly ‘coped’ and then covered with proper surfacing to ensure that nothing is exposed or in contact with the child.

 

Does the play equipment show any signs of deterioration or corrosion? Does the play area lack maintenance or appear to have been vandalized?

 

  • Look for loose splinters, large splits and decay on wood components

  • Rust or paint that is peeling

  • Chipping or cracking on metal components

  • Splitting or cracking on fiberglass components

  • Look for missing or damaged equipment components such as handholds, guardrails, swing seats and benches.

  • Special attention is warranted for deterioration and corrosion on structural components where they come in contact with the ground; look for any emerging anchoring problems that may cause instability.

 

 

 
 
                 
 
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Approximately 250,000 children annually suffer injuries at the playground. Koochie's formulated checklist can help you evaluate the general safety guidelines of your playground to see whether they present dangerous hazards..

 
 
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Koochieplay Systems Pvt Ltd envisages expansion plans into ASEAN regions commencing with the Philippines. Koochieplay wins the QUALITY BRANDS AWARD 2012-14.

 
 
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