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Safety first when building backyard playground for kids

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Posted: Thursday, March 31, 2011 9:06 am | Updated: 10:56 am, Thu Mar 31, 2011.

Few things are as enjoyable for parents and grandparents as watching their children and grandchildren play. As cherished as such playtime can be, it can quickly turn into a memory adults and children alike would prefer to forget if an injury occurs.

Playground accidents vary in severity. Some produce just a scrape or a scratch, while more drastic accidents can lead to broken bones or even death. And where those accidents occur might come as a surprise to parents. Ten years ago, a study conducted by the Consumer Product Safety Commission discovered more deaths occurred on backyard playground equipment than on public playgrounds. A 2009 study from the CPSC found that 40 deaths were associated with playground equipment between 2001 to 2008, the majority of which were the result of hangings or asphyxiations.

Naturally, parents aware of such statistics are concerned, particularly those who want to erect a playground for their children on their own property. When building a home playground for children, parents should consider the following factors.

Location, location, location

A home playground's location is very important. When deciding where to put a playground, consider its accessibility. Is the playground easily reached should an accident occur? Can children be seen playing from a nearby window? Should an accident occur, is the playground within earshot of the home? Kids often play on a home playground while their parents are inside, so be sure to locate the playground close enough to the home where you can see and hear your kids from the house, and in a spot that's easy to get to should an accident occur.

Equipment

Though most parents would love to build their children a home playground that rivals the nearby amusement park, some equipment has historically proven to be more dangerous than others. A 2009 report from the CPSC indicated that climbers were associated with 23 percent of all playground injuries while swings were associated with 22 percent. When installing equipment, be sure everything is installed in strict adherence to the manufacturer's instructions.

Surfaces

According to the CPSC, 67 percent of playground accidents between 2001 and 2008 involved falls or equipment failure. Most kids are going to fall once or twice when playing on the playground. Parents can plan for such falls and minimize their child's injury risk by installing impact-absorbing surfaces beneath the playground. Such surfaces are the standard at many public playgrounds and can make the difference between a simple fall or one that results in broken bones or a trip to the emergency room.

Inspection

Kids often like to play rough, and as a result playgrounds commonly take quite a beating. Even if equipment was sturdy at installation and was installed to the letter of the manufacturer's instructions, parents should routinely inspect equipment to ensure it's holding up to the wear and tear of children. Ask kids to let you know immediately if anything feels loose or isn't working properly.

For more information, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission at www.cpsc.gov.

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