Ten steps toward a safer playground

Use this checklist to inspect your local school or community playground. If you mark any items with an "X," ask the proper school or park official to correct these hazards immediately-before injuries occur.

[ ] Protective Surfacing - The surfaces under and around play equipment should be soft enough to cushion falls. For most play equipment, these surfaces should contain a minimum of 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand or pea gravel.

[ ] Fall Zones - To cushion a fall, the shock absorbing material should extend a minimum of 6 feet in all directions from stationary pieces of play equipment. In front of and behind swings, the material should extend a distance equal to twice the height of the suspending bar.

[ ] Equipment Spacing - Play structures should be spaced at least 12 feet apart to allow children space to circulate or fall without striking another structure. Moving pieces of equipment should be located in an area away from other play structures so children have adequate room to pass from one play area to another without being struck by a moving swing or by another child exiting from a slide.

[ ] Catch Points and Protruding Hardware - There should be no dangerous pieces of hardware, such as protruding bolt ends and narrow gaps in metal connections or open "S" hooks at the top and bottom of swings. Exposed hardware can cut children, puncture skin, or catch clothing drawstrings, which could strangle a child.

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