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Play it Safe!

Safety Tips for Playgrounds

The Durham Region Health Department is actively involved with local municipalities, school boards, licenced day cares and other stakeholders in the community to promote safe outdoor playgrounds. An inspection program exists in Durham Region to ensure that public outdoor playgrounds are safe for our children.

Winter PlaygroundThis information is designed to help identify unsafe outdoor playground equipment and potential hazards at municipal parks, schools, day cares, condominiums, apartment buildings and backyards.

The Facts

  • Most recent emergency department statistics show that 51% of all visits due to playground injuries in Ontario involve fractures of the upper limbs, such as a broken arm, wrist or elbow. Head injuries were second highest at 22%.
  • Children aged 5-9 were most at risk for both emergency room visits (54%) and hospital admissions (61%) due to playground injuries.
  • Falls from heights greater than 1.5 metres (5 feet) double the risk of severe injury for children of all ages.
  • Backyard playgrounds account for 20% of all playground injuries.

Why do we do this?

CSA Standards

  • The CSA Standards (Canadian Standards Association) to promote and encourage the use of play structures that are well designed, well maintained, innovative and challenging
  • Requires a thorough inspection of the play structure
  • States it must follow the manufacturer's instructions or installation and structural integrity
  • Reflects childhood development needs with standards for two age groups - 18 months to five years and five to 12 years
  • Has specific criteria for to newly constructed municipal play structures to make them accessible to a person with disabilities
  • Playgrounds built to meet CSA Standard showed 49% decrease in injuries

The Value of Play

  • Playability is the philosophy of increasing opportunities for people of all abilities to grow and learn together by removing barriers and providing support
  • Play is vital to develop potential, gives satisfaction, boosts self-esteem and a feeling of achievement
  • It presents children with achievable challenges and risk taking without hazards
  • Children learn to make plans, friends, share tasks, and cooperate through play while developing their motor skills, strength and coordination

Check your child

  • Use a neck warmer instead of a scarf and mitten clips rather than cords. Loose clothing can get trapped in equipment and may cause strangulation.
  • Bicycle helmets should not be worn by children while on play equipment. Their head may get trapped as the helmet may be too big to pull through an opening and may cause strangulation.
  • Do not allow the use of skipping ropes on play equipment. Ropes may become entangled around a child's neck and the equipment which may cause strangulation.

Check the playground

  • Look for signs/labels indicating the appropriate age group that the equipment is intended for:
    • 18 months to 5 years (Preschool)
    • 5 to 12 years (School-age)
  • Ensure that the playspace and equipment is free from hazards such as broken glass, splinters, sharp edges, loose/broken parts, nails and bolts that stick out, etc.
  • Ensure that the protective surfacing beneath and surrounding the equipment is soft and deep, such as sand, pea gravel, wood chips or rubber that will help absorb a child's fall. Grass, dirt, asphalt, concrete or any hard compacted surfacing are not safe.
  • In the winter, structures can become dangerous when covered in snow and ice. In freezing conditions, the shock absorbency of the protective surfacing is greatly reduced. Children should not play on playground equipment under these conditions.

Safer Backyards

  • When purchasing backyard play equipment choose equipment that is designed for your child's age.
  • Install play equipment at least 1.8 metres (6 feet) away from fences, trees and other objects onto which children may fall or run into.
  • Allow sufficient space for children to circulate around the equipment.
  • Grass and dirt or any hard compacted surfacing is not safe. Protective surfacing (i.e. sand, pea gravel, woodchips, etc.) should be located beneath and at least 1.8 metres surrounding any play equipment. It is recommended that protective surfacing be at least 30 centimetres (12 inches) in depth.
  • Regularly inspect the play equipment and protective surfacing to ensure they are in good condition.
  • The playspace must have good drainage to prevent water from ponding.
  • Choose a shaded area if possible.

Design safety for all play equipment

  • Equipment must be firmly anchored to the ground to prevent tipping.
  • Ropes, cables and chains must be anchored at both ends.
  • Swing seats must be made of shock-absorbent material (not metal or wood).
  • Watch out for crush or shear points in equipment with moving parts such as teeter totters, track rides and merry-go-rounds. Fingers or skin could become entrapped, crushed or cut.
  • Watch out for head and neck entrapments. Spaces between steps and railings might be big enough for your child's body but may trap his or her head or neck, causing strangulation. Safe spaces are smaller than 9 centimetres (3½ inches) and larger than 22.5 centimetres (9 inches).
  • Playgrounds built to meet CSA Standard (Canadian Standards Association) showed a 49% decrease in injuries.

Questions or Concerns?

 Request a Display

Public health inspection staff are available to provide the Safety Tips: Safer Playgrounds Display that highlights some of the important safety issues associated with private/residential playground structures. More information PDF

Information was obtained from: