Playground hazards

Hazards which could result in serious injury or death of a child should be remedied immediately.

Here are some examples:

  • Strangulation hazards. A strangulation hazard is a point where drawstrings or loose clothing could catch and become entangled, causing strangulation. The top of slides and firemen's poles and any piece of moving equipment (swings, merry-go-rounds) should be carefully inspected for places where a drawstring, scarf or other piece of clothing near the neck could become caught. The equipment manufacturer should be consulted to see if safe modifications are possible to correct any hazards. Since the early 1980s, almost all child deaths on playgrounds have been the result of strangulation.
  • Inadequate surfacing under high equipment. Safe surfacing helps to protect children in case of a fall. Falls onto hard ground can cause serious injuries, such as broken bones, head injuries and injuries to internal organs. Proper surfacing material is relatively inexpensive but crucial to keeping a playground safe. Most playground injuries occur as a result of falls.
  • As of 2003, the CSA Standard requires that all types of playground surfacing be "crash tested" to ensure its shock-absorbing ability, using a technical instrument such as a triaxial accelerometer. Recommendations for depths of different types of loose fill surfacing (such as sand, pea gravel and wood mulch), given in the 1998 edition, are no longer part of the current CSA Standard. However, it is important to know that loose fill surfacing should be installed to a depth of at least 15 to 30 centimetres (six to 12 inches).
  • Surfacing compacts over time with repeated use. It should be re-tested annually to ensure it can still absorb falls properly. The test instrument should be dropped from the highest surfaces from which children could realistically fall (for example, older children can – and often do – climb to the tops of guardrails). In the newest 2007 edition of the CSA Standard, the point for testing for a safe fall height was changed to the top of guardrails and barriers to ensure that even when children climb above equipment platforms and onto guardrails and barriers, the surfacing will still absorb their fall and will reduce the risk of serious injury.
  • Head and neck entrapment hazards. These are spaces in playground equipment which are large enough for a small child's body to slip through, but small enough to trap the child's head. Because toddlers and preschoolers have large heads relative to their body size, this is a serious hazard. Some key places to check include the space between steps, gaps in horizontal railings and spaces between platforms of different heights. Safe openings are either smaller than nine centimetres (3.5 inches) or larger than 22.5 centimetres (nine inches). Unsafe openings can often be corrected for the short term with fairly simple modifications such as closing off the backs of stairs.

Safety concerns regarding chromated copper arsenate (CCA)-treated wood.

Health Canada has a fact sheet on copper arsenate (CCA)-treated wood available on their website.