Risk Reporter for Religious Institutions

Spring 2013 Vol. 12, Issue 2

Seasonal Spotlight

Avoid playground injuries with SAFE procedures

According to the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS), each year more than 200,000 children are injured on playgrounds in the United States. Many of these incidents could have been avoided if the organization implemented a safety protocol.

“Every child has the right to a safe, positive and fun outdoor play experience,” said Donna Thompson, executive director at NPPS.

One of the most effective tools is the SAFE framework. SAFE addresses major factors to help avoid injuries on playgrounds and play areas by emphasizing supervision, age-appropriate design, fall surfacing and equipment maintenance.


Adults should monitor children at all times and practice active supervision. Before kids play, inspect the equipment and surrounding area for dangerous objects. Be aware of weather conditions that could affect the safety of the children, such as high winds, ice or water on play structures. During playtime, make sure kids are dressed appropriately and using equipment the way it was designed to be used. When playtime is over, account for every child and report even minor accidents.

Age-appropriate design

“Playground equipment is designed for ages 6–23 months old, 2–5 years old and 5 –12 years old,” Thompson said. “Clearly indicate what age group the play area was designed for on a sign near the playground. Do not allow children to use a play structure designed for older kids.”

Fall surfacing

“Nearly 70 percent of all playground injuries are related to falls to the surface,” Thompson said.

The height of equipment determines the thickness of surfacing. Recommended surfaces include loose-fill or synthetic materials, such as shredded rubber, hardwood fiber or pea gravel. Surfacing should be age-appropriate. For example, do not use pea gravel in a 6-month to 23-month play area. Consult with a certified outdoor play inspector to make sure the correct thickness and type of fall surface are implemented. A list of certified inspectors can be found at www.playgroundsafety.org/certified.

Equipment maintenance

Maintenance routines should be determined for each specific playground and implemented in regular intervals. Wood equipment should be free of splinters, metal equipment free of rust and plastic equipment free of cracks. In addition, playgrounds should receive a professional inspection yearly.

For more information on playground safety, including safety resources, training and more information about the SAFE method, visit www.playgroundsafety.org. Find additional playground safety resources at www.churchmutual.com, click on “Safety Resources” and select “Playground Safety.”

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Editor: Emilie M. Pierschalla  | 800-554-2642 Ext. 4120  | epierschalla@churchmutual.com

Risk Control Advisor: Edward A. Steele, CSP  | 800-554-2642 Ext. 4403  | esteele@churchmutual.com

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