Children enjoy the playground because it’s a place that allows them to enjoy all the things that kids love to do – climbing, running, jumping and sliding. It allows them to spend time with friends and help them to make new friends. For parents and teachers alike, playground fun – be it recess, playdates or at-home – is a time for a child’s excess energy to be expended.
The problem, however, is that many playgrounds are not safe, leading to childhood injuries such as cuts, burns and bruises. While some of these heal, others have lasting scars. For example, a four-year-old Missouri girl was just being a kid when she went down a hot plastic slide that left her with second-degree burns on her thighs. In another case, a two-year-old Idaho toddler also suffered burns to her legs when she slid down a plastic slide.
The assumption is that plastic slides are safer than metal sides, and it’s resulting in needless childhood injuries. At a time when kids should be active, it’s leaving many of them in pain and visiting a doctor or hospital.
Burns is not the only problem with playground equipment; there are other hazards associated with them:
- Crushing body parts
- Sharp edges
- Poor surfacing
- Lack of suitable parts
The state of California (and its officials) has been working hard and diligently to change the narrative that its playgrounds are dangerous.
What Did California Government Officials Do To Address Rising Playground Injuries?
Back in 2005, California’s Legislative Congress passed AB-1144 Playground safety standards, which states that any new playground for public use – built by an entity or public agency must meet the guidelines as set for by the ASTM as well the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Any entity that will replace equipment or make alterations to equipment inside already-established playgrounds must ensure the pieces are up to standards as outlined in the two agencies mentioned above.
The state even went as far as to ensure playgrounds installed between Jan. 1, 1994 and Dec. 31, 1999 would meet the standards set forth by the ASTM and CPSC. These guidelines were put in place for any public playground (schools, churches, daycares, restaurants, etc.) but did not apply to residential or private ones.
While many states and local governments across the countries have enacted laws on playground safety, it was California that took the bold initiative to formulate a Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) position. This person is assigned to inspect the state’s various playground equipment to ensure they are in compliance with the American Society of Testing and Materials and the latest Consumer Product Safety Commission playground recommendations.
What Is The Job Of The CPSI? What Must Entities Do?
The CPSI uses a Playground Audit checklist to determine if the equipment is up to code or if repairs need to be made. The CPSI will sign and date the forms of when the inspection took place. If a defect is identified, the entity must ensure repairs are addressed right away and a second inspection must take place to ensure the equipment and parts meet the recommended manufacturer’s instructions and are not local hardware store alternatives.
Entities with public playgrounds must keep accurate playground maintenance records and inspections, which also includes the instructions provided by the manufacturer. They must also record any accidents or injuries that take place on the playground equipment.
While many municipalities across the U.S. (such as California) are investing in playground equipment that offers soft padding and surfaces, these still must be inspected regularly to ensure there has been no damage done. It’s not just metal parts of the playground equipment that’s causing injuries, which is why inspections are prudent to reduce the risk for devastating and even deadly playground injuries.
Still, despite all the inspections, injuries will inevitably happen, but to a lesser extent is the hope.
For instance, an eight-year-old boy was with his sibling and father at a local Burger King in California. The little boy decided to play on the outdoor playground. However, he lost his grip and fell, landing on the hard tile floor under it. He was left with a severe brain injury and suffers from permanent paralysis on one side as well as mental impairments. The family won their case against the BK franchisee.
It is stories like these that make the CPSI so crucial to the children, their families and even playground-owning entities.