By Sara Schlafstein, Law Clerk and David Wolf, Attorney
Published by Child Injury Lawyer Network
Day care centers are first and foremost obliged to protect the safety of their students. Playground sets, because of their potential for misuse, can present safety challenges for day care centers. Thus, there are many actions that a day care center’s staff should take to ensure that their playground creates a safe environment for children in order to prevent potential injuries and accidents. Safe kids, a worldwide organization with the mission of protecting children from injuries, provides “Playground Safety Tips,” a guide to keeping children safe on the playground.
The guide stresses the importance of active supervision of children on the playground. This includes checking the equipment prior to use. If there are any potential hazards such as rusty or broken equipment, this should be reported to the day care center authorities promptly. Supervisors should not allow roughhousing, such as pushing and shoving, especially on or near the playground equipment. Additionally, children should be encouraged to remove clothing or jewelry that can get caught on the equipment and cause potential suffocation. It is also important to recognize that children of different ages play differently, so it may be necessary to have separate playground areas for children under 5 years of age.
The “Playground Safety Tips” also stress the importance of having the right type of equipment on playgrounds. It is dangerous for children to play on hard surfaces without impact-absorbing materials. This includes concrete, gravel, and asphalt. It is recommended that playground sets be on woodchips, sand, shredded rubber, or other similar materials. Rubber mats and synthetic turfs can also provide a safe alternative on playgrounds. The surface materials should be large enough to cover the entire playground and surrounding areas. This is particularly important under swing sets, where it is recommended that the surface material should extend out twice as long as the height of the swings. In addition, slides should have soft, shock-absorbent materials at the bottom, to avoid potential leg and arm injuries that may occur.
Although these are some of the suggested precautions that day care centers should take, it is not an exhaustive list. However, day care supervisors should follow these general guidelines when overseeing children on playgrounds, as safety is of the utmost importance, and these recommendations can prevent potential injuries and damages. For more information on keeping children safe, visit safekids.org and review the article Playground Safety Tips.
Unfortunately, children suffer injuries on playgrounds. Many such incidents could have been prevented with better supervision and maintenance of the playground equipment. Day care center staff members should be on high alert any time that children are engaged in play on or near a playground area. The focus of the attention of the day care worker should be on the children and their safety. Playground time is not a time for staff members to take breaks or multi-task by using the time to text, surf the web, or e-mail from their mobile phones, tablelets, or lap tops.
When a child suffers a playground related injury to the fault of the day care center, the parent is faced with many challenges including but not limited to medical care, medical bills, lost wages, and the overall stress and emotional toll associated with the personal injuries suffered by the child. The book – The ABCs of Child Injury – Legal Rights of the Injured Child – What Every Parent Should Know – has chapters on Day Care Center Injuries, School Injuries, Playground Injuries, Water Park Injuries and other topics. You can get this book for free at The ABCs of Child Injury.