If you think that a playground is always a harmless place for a child to play, consider the following statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Safety Council (NSC):
- Every year in the U.S., more than 200,000 children aged 14 and younger are treated for playground injuries in an Emergency Room (ER).
- Severe fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations, and amputations comprise about 45% of all playground injuries.
- Nearly 80% of all playground injuries are caused by falls.
- Strangulation is one of the top causes of playground death. In a study conducted over ten years, 56% of all playground deaths in children 14 and under were caused by strangulation.
- Children 5 to 9 have the highest rate of ER visits for playground injuries of any age group.
- Playgrounds in low-income areas have the highest rates of injury and fatality and are more likely to have issues like rusted metal, broken equipment, and dangerous fall surfaces.
In an ideal world, a playground should be a place where children can freely play, exercise, and socialize without fear of injury. But not every children’s play area is as well-maintained or well-designed as it should be. When negligence, carelessness, or outright wrongdoing are allowed to happen, children’s lives are put at risk.
Determining liability in a playground accident can be difficult. Depending on the circumstances, there could be one or more responsible parties.
The Most Dangerous Pieces of Playground Equipment for Kids
Any piece of playground equipment can be hazardous if left to deteriorate to an unsafe state. But some equipment is especially prone to cause dangers for kids—or is so intrinsically dangerous that no amount of maintenance can protect children from the risks it poses.
The following list includes some of the most dangerous pieces of playground equipment:
Many playgrounds across the country have discontinued the use of metal slides. Metal exposed to the sun for prolonged periods can rise to extremely high temperatures. Children have been known to sustain second-degree burns on metal slides in summer. Another concern with poorly-maintained slides is the possibility that a bolt or screw can become exposed, or a gap may open in a multi-piece slide.
The use of small, manual carousels on playgrounds has decreased significantly in recent decades. Unlike the larger, electric-powered merry-go-rounds common at carnivals and amusement parks, these spinning carousels are operated by children running in a circle around the equipment. This highly dangerous piece of play equipment has led to numerous injuries—many of which result when a child’s arm or leg is caught in the handrails, or when a child is flung at high speed from the carousel.
Many children find great mental satisfaction in hunting for objects and building structures in a sandbox. However, sandboxes may be better suited for one’s own yard than a public space like a playground. Public sandboxes are rarely cleaned. An untended sandbox can harbor any number of bacteria, germs, parasites, and insects. Sharp objects, litter, and even dangerous items like knives or needles can be buried and left under the sand when the box is not well attended to.
Jungle Gyms or Monkey Bars
Networks of climbing equipment like hanging bars, swinging rings, and climbing ladders are safest when they are used only by older children supervised carefully by adults. This type of playground equipment is highly dangerous to young and unsupervised children, who can easily fall and suffer concussions, broken bones, or spinal injuries.
The pieces of climbing equipment designed to be gripped should be made of a safe, non-slippery material that won’t become hot when exposed to sunlight. All joints should be secure without the danger of a part becoming loose when weight is applied. If any jungle gym is poorly maintained, it becomes exponentially hazardous to users.
When designed well, seesaws can be a safe, fun piece of equipment on a playground. However, several older models of seesaws have been phased out or banned altogether due to their dangerous construction. When children of unequal weight sit on opposite ends of a seesaw, the smaller child can be thrown into the air and suffer fall-related injuries. Kids can also sustain tailbone or spinal cord damage from hard landings directly on the ground beneath. Some seesaws were designed so that children’s hands or fingers could be pinched under the ends of the planks and the central fulcrum.
Playground Hazards to Avoid
Parents, guardians, and caregivers should be aware of certain playground hazards that should be avoided. These dangers to children include:
- Structures too close together (especially swings that can hit a tree or other piece of equipment)
- Exposed concrete or concrete footing under swings, slides, and climbing equipment
- Sharp tree branches too close to playground equipment
- Raised surfaces higher than 30 inches that lack handrails or barriers
- Exposed screws, nails, bolts, or hooks (especially on slides)
- Openings where children’s heads can be trapped (more than three-and-a-half inches but less than nine inches)
- Sharp edges on equipment
- Rusty or broken equipment
- Unsafe landing areas under swings or climbing equipment
- Swings installed too far off the ground
- Ground surfaces without at least 12” of wood chips, mulch, sand gravel, or safety mats
- Strangulation hazards like nets, ropes, chains, or clotheslines in which a child can be caught
- Litter, debris, or drug paraphernalia left lying where children can pick them up
Legal Help for Families After a Playground Injury
If your child was injured on a defective piece of playground equipment in Chicago or elsewhere in Illinois, an attorney from Krzak Rundio Gorman, Injury Attorneys may be able to help your family recover damages. We’ll talk with you through the process of a personal injury or wrongful death claim. Our lawyers have the experience and compassion your family needs, and we devote our efforts to helping you find healing after loss. Reach out to our office to schedule a free initial case evaluation with an experienced attorney. We can help you determine if negligence was a factor in your playground equipment accident.