Playground operators, owners and local communities can take the lead in preventing playground injuries.
The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) publishes voluntary playground standards (CAN/CSA Z614 “Children’s Playspaces and Equipment”) for outdoor public play spaces. This is considered the “gold standard” for public playgrounds. To make your playgrounds safer:
- Ensure that equipment and play spaces comply with the CSA standard by having them inspected by someone who is certified and experienced in playground inspections using the CSA standard.
- Inspect and maintain playground equipment on a regular basis. Look for new hazards, such as worn surfacing or broken equipment.
- Report any injuries that occur on public play equipment to Health Canada. The Hazardous Products Act requires that all injuries related to consumer products be reported.
REDUCE THE HEIGHT OF PLAY EQUIPMENT
Surfacing and fall height are the two main factors that determine how seriously a child is injured in a fall. To protect children from falling:
- Select new equipment that reduces overall fall height.
- Avoid equipment where a child could fall from an open elevated platform.
- Look for equipment with high protective barriers, and play structures that discourage climbing (e.g. onto the roof or up the outer structure) and/or have fully enclosed spaces on the highest elevated platforms.
INSTALL AND MAINTAIN ADEQUATE PROTECTIVE SURFACING
Appropriate surfacing can decrease the risk of a serious injury at the playground. To make your playground safer:
- Install and maintain surfacing according to the CSA standard (CAN/CSA Z614 “Children’s Playspaces and Equipment”). The standard can be purchased at www.csa.ca and includes detailed information on types of surfacing and how to test for impact absorption using a tri-axial accelerometer (triax).
- Have your playground surface tested. The City of Winnipeg operates a triax loan program for playground maintenance workers who have completed triax use training. For more information on this program, contact Jason Bell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PROMOTE TRAINING FOR INSPECTORS, OPERATORS AND SUPERVISORS
The Canadian Parks and Recreation Association’s Canadian Playground Safety Institute offers of several online and in-classroom courses on playground safety. Courses are based on the CAN/CSA Children’s Playspaces and Equipment Standards. Courses include:
- Theory (Certification – part 1 of 2)
- Practical (Certification – part 2 of 2)
- Managing Safe Playspaces (non-certification course)
- Accessibility (non-certification course)
- Playground Inspector re-certification
USE A CHECKLIST TO INSPECT YOUR PLAYGROUND REGULARLY
There are many checklists available to help you inspect your playground. The following local documents have information on safe playgrounds as well as checklists:
- The Manitoba School Boards Association publishes Risk Management at a Glance: Formswhich has a Monthly Playground Maintenance Inspection Report, a Play Space Inspection Report and a Weekly Playground Inspection Checklist.
- The Manitoba Childcare Program provides information on how to maintain safe indoor and outdoor play spaces in Developing Enhanced Safety Plans and Codes of Conduct: A Guide to Safety Charter Requirements for Child Care Centres. This document has sample daily, monthly and yearly checklists (see Section K).
CONSIDER NATURAL ALTERNATIVES
Natural play spaces are an increasingly popular choice for playground designers and communities. Talk to a certified inspector or landscape architect to ensure your ideas comply with the CSA standard and meet relevant provincial guidelines, such as those established for schools and child care facilities.
- Read other resources to learn more about natural play ideas for communities, families and child care centres.
- Innovative Playgrounds provides case studies and a design matrices for creating innovative playgrounds.
- Children and Nature has toolkits for families and research summaries of the many health benefits related to play and learning in nature.
- Green Hour recommends that parents give their kids a “Green Hour” every day, in a garden, backyard or neighbourhood park.
- Green Hearts Institute for Nature in Childhood features a Parents Guide to Nature Play with ideas for parents and child care centres.
- Encourage the use of local parks, paths and trails by creating activity kits that families can borrow from a community centre, library, school or child care facility.
- Outdoor play kits can include index cards with simple and fun activities and games for families to do together. They can provide basic outdoor equipment such as soft balls of varying sizes, skipping ropes, small plastic pylons and Frisbees for children to play with.
- Nature kits can include nature checklists, scavenger hunts, or I Spy Nature ideas, and provide a bag or basket with a plastic bucket and shovels, nets, bug containers and a plastic magnifying glass.
- Host a Play Day in your local park.
EDUCATE FAMILIES AND COMMUNITY PARTNERS ABOUT PLAYGROUND SAFETY
Many serious injuries at playgrounds can be prevented by adult supervision and smart playground choices. You can help be a community playground advocate by:
- Educating parents by distributing the Kids Don’t Bounce family action guide
- Educating day cares, community centres, schools and other groups who are responsible for playgrounds by distributing the Kids Don’t Bounce community action guide.
- Using the following key messages in your media communications and newsletters:
- Supervise young children
- Select age-appropriate equipment
- Check for soft surfacing
- Teach your children playground rules
- Report safety concerns
- Consider natural alternatives