Playground Safety: Surfaces, Design & Spacing
It doesn’t need to be said that safety is a top concern when designing a playground. No one wants to see a child hurt while playing with his or her friends on the playground, which is why intelligent design is so important. Using the right materials, and building the playground in a way that promotes safety, is key to steering clear of accidents. While no playground – or any space, for that matter – is completely accident-proof, proper playground design can go a long way toward keeping kids happy and healthy.
Below, we are quickly going to look at three topics which all play a role in the safety of a playground – surfaces, design, and spacing.
It should not be a surprise that the surface you choose for your playground is going to have a lot to do with its overall safety in the end. In years gone by, surfaces like blacktop and concrete may have been used as the base for a playground, but we have far better options available today. Rubber surfaces which have been safety-tested are a popular choice, as are loose fill surfaces like wood chips, pea gravel, etc. Of course, for it to retain its cushioning properties, loose fill should not be compacted down when it is installed. Good, safe playground surfaces aren’t going to prevent all falling injuries, but it certainly will help in lessening the severity of those injuries when they do occur.
One of the keys to safe playground design is creating areas that are suitable for children of all ages. It would naturally be dangerous for a small child to be playing on a piece of equipment designed for a 10-year-old, for example. Instead of forcing all children to play on the same equipment, which can lead to safety concerns, encourage kids to play on equipment that has been specifically designed with their age range in mind. Also, by separating the design of the equipment by age, you can reduce the amount of time that larger and smaller kids will be playing in the same space. Well-meaning older children can sometimes injury smaller kids on accident, but that will not occur if they are playing on separate structures.
Placing pieces of playground equipment too close together can quickly lead to trouble. As a general rule of thumb, you should place pieces of equipment at least nine feet apart, assuming those pieces of equipment are at least 30’’ tall. There should only be two swings per bay, and a bucket seat for a tot should have its own bay for safety. No spaces throughout the playground should be of such a size that they could potentially trap a child’s head or any other body part. This is an especially important point when it comes to climbing nets, which should have openings that are either too large or too small to present a safety hazard. When spacing is done properly throughout a playground, and surface and design points are thought through carefully as well, kids will be able to enjoy the space safely for many years to come.