Monday, June 1, 2009

Bill could change playground safety requirements

An interesting situation is developing in North Carolina. Advocates say that if the playground is "safe enough" for children to use during the school day then afterschool programs should have the same requirements. As a result, they are pushing for a bill that would exempt public elementary school playgrounds from regulations that private child-care facilities that operate afterschool programs must abide by.

Savitt a lobbist disagrees, he said that out of 700-plus elementary afterschool programs in North Carolina, about 280 have some sort of problem with playground equipment. Examples of problems at the playgrounds include rusty nails, a broken swing, and high slides or climbing bars with inadequate surfacing to brake a fall.

"The majority of incidents generally arise out of misuse or inadequate supervision," Jennifer Svenstrup, director of child care services for the YMCA of Western North Carolina. "Training is what's important." I think the correct statistic is that supervision is a "contributing factor" in playground injuries and unsafe equipment and surfacing still account for a fair number of serious injuries.

Instead of fighting an important regulation geared at preventing playground injuries the afterschool folks might better serve children by advocating for playground improvements that keep all kids safe. I don't know about you but I don't want my grandkids playing on a broken swing, with rusty nails, or improper surfacing beneath high slides and climbing bars. It's important to recognize that over 200,000 children each year visit emergency rooms as a result of playground injuries. That's 200,000 too many in my book.

Dr. Bossenmeyer is Founder of Peaceful Playgrounds, Inc. It is a research-based playground curriculum emphasizing "peaceful play" and it currently in 8,000 elementary schools across the nation. Peaceful Playgrounds has no affiliation with either surfacing or structure companies.