156,000 children were reported injured by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in 1999, and 67% of those injuries fell from public playground equipment. I just finished reading a deposition of a school representative who was asked to testify about safety rules in playgrounds at his school. As parents, we trust that schools in charge of our children’s safety will properly train the school staff, but when we dig down deeper we are too often disappointed in the lack of continued training.
In the early 1990s, the State of Washington set out to educate school districts on playground safety. The testifying school official stated that his school, which was specifically targeted by this statewide training program, did not have any record of any of the safety guidelines of this past training program. To make things worse, the school did not have any written guidelines or policies and procedures to assure that playgrounds were at least in compliance with the minimum safety levels required. Instead, the school used something called “common sense”. While common sense is a valuable commodity, we learn over time that our best meaning common sense approach is often inadequate. It is because of these inadequacies in the common sense approach that groups get together and create safety rules. Ask yourself, do you want your surgeon just using common sense or, in the alternative, years of medical training and education.
At 6 feet above ground, a child should have at least 9 inches of bark below the to reduce the impact of a fall from whatever climbing device was in the playground. When new wood chips are added they should be added at a depth of 12 inches as these wood chips will compress and reduce to 9 inches. Common sense does not give us these measurements, but common sense should tell us that we should discover whether there are well-acknowledged safety standards. Safety rules are easy to locate with nothing more than a quick search on Google.