Safety first: tips to help make your community playground a safer place to play

By Richie Almeida, Integrated Marketing Specialist on August 15, 2023

If you’re developing a new playground or maintaining one currently, these recommendations + checklists can help keep children out of harm’s way.

Playgrounds are essential to any community. They give kids the chance to grow and develop physically, socially and intellectually while having fun. They give families a place to spend time together and make lasting memories. Unfortunately, while there are plenty of benefits, there are risks that could spring up around your local playground that you don’t want to let slide.

Did you know that each year, over 200,000 kids ages 14 and younger go to the emergency room with playground-related injuries? Over 20,000 of these children are treated for traumatic brain injuries, including concussions. Maintaining a safe environment for kids to play can help reduce injuries, and if you’re looking to develop a public playground in your community, you’ll want to keep these 3 elements in mind:


1. Age Appropriateness

A child’s needs and abilities will greatly vary between pre-school age (2-5) and school-age (5-12). Make sure playground equipment is appropriate for the intended user and separate play areas meant for different ages and stages of development.


2. Supervision

Did you know improper supervision is associated with approximately 45% of playground-related injuries? Design play areas so parents and caregivers can easily oversee children.


3. Fall Surfacing

With nearly 80% of playground injuries being caused by falls, improper surfacing should be at top-of-mind. To help minimize the risk of injury when a child falls from playground equipment, the kind of fall-absorbent material, its depth and consistent maintenance will be important factors.


Routine inspection of your playground will be critical to maintaining a safe place for kids to play. Terry Barlow, Client Risk Solutions Industry Specialist for Glatfelter Public Entities, states, “The most concerning issue I see when visiting playgrounds is the apparent lack of basic inspections. In my opinion, an inspection, which only takes a few minutes and can be completed by anyone on staff, will help strengthen safety programs and prevent playground injuries.”

How often are you completing your inspection? Thorough inspections should be done frequently, and if repairs can’t be made right away, equipment should be removed from service until fixed.

When doing your inspection, here are a few things you’ll want to make sure aren’t missing from your checklist:

  • Make sure surfaces around playground equipment have at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand or pea gravel. Mats are another consideration as long as they’re made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials.
  • Protective surfacing should reach at least 6 feet in all directions from play equipment. For swings, surfacing should extend twice the height of the suspending bar in the back and front.
  • Play structures should be at least 9 feet apart if they’re more than 30 inches high.
  • Look out for dangerous hardware like open “S” hooks, protruding bolt ends and sharp points or edges on equipment.
  • Spaces that could trap children, such as guardrail openings or between ladder rungs, should measure less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches.
  • Keep an eye out for tripping hazards like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps and rocks.
  • To help prevent falls, elevated surfaces like platforms and ramps should have guardrails.
  • Routinely check to make sure equipment and surfacing are in good condition.

After each inspection, be sure to keep records of your assessment, issues that arise and repairs that occur.

Download our free playground inspection checklists for a more detailed  structure for documentation >>>

The playground is where families can bond and community members can come together. It can play an important part in child development and its preservation should never be overlooked. Keep in mind that these self-inspections are just one part of a complete maintenance program, but a great start to keeping your community’s children safer.

Richie Almeida, Integrated Marketing Specialist

Richie is an avid movie goer with an addiction to Sour Patch Kids. If he isn’t at the movies, he is at the gym or on a hike trying to make up for his bad eating habits.


The information contained in this blog post is intended for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace expert advice in connection with the topics presented. Glatfelter specifically disclaims any liability for any act or omission by any person or entity in connection with the preparation, use or implementation of plans, principles, concepts or information contained in this publication.

Glatfelter does not make any representation or warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the results obtained by the use, adherence or implementation of the material contained in this publication. The implementation of the plans, principles, concepts or materials contained in this publication is not a guarantee that you will achieve a certain desired result. It is strongly recommended that you consult with a professional advisor, architect or other expert prior to the implementation of plans, principles, concepts or materials contained in this publication.

This blog post may contain the content of third parties and links to third party websites. Third party content and websites are owned and operated by an independent party over which Glatfelter has no control. Glatfelter makes no representation, warranty, or guarantee as to the accuracy, completeness, timeliness or reliability of any third party content. References to third party services, processes, products, or other information does not constitute or imply any endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation by Glatfelter, unless expressly stated otherwise.

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