Saturday, July 21

Playing it safe

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Communal playground areas should be places of fun for children without posing any safety hazards

A child’s injury in an area meant for fun can be traumatic for everyone. To this end, homeowners’ associations and body corporates are advised to carefully check that grounds and equipment in shared play areas are safe.
Should an injury occur and the homeowners’ association and body corporate be found negligent, they would not only have to deal with the guilt of the child’s injury but could also face third-party injury claims against their insurance.

This advice comes at a time when many new estates and sectional title complexes are offering children’s playgrounds as added attractions for parents who are concerned about the safety of their children in public parks and recreation facilities.

Statistics show a considerable proportion of children’s injuries each year – including concussions, dislocations, fractures, internal injuries and even amputations – result from playing on faulty jungle gyms, slides, swings, tree houses and rope ladders, says Gerhard Kotzé, managing director of the RealNet estate agency group.

But he says much can be done to prevent such accidents.

Here is his recommended checklist. This list can also be used by parents setting up a play area at home.

GROUNDCOVER

Ensure possible falls end in a soft landing by maintaining a shock-absorbent groundcover. A 15cm layer of wood chips, mulch or shredded rubber is needed to offer protection for equipment 2m high.

PROTECTIVE SURFACES

These should extend at least 2m in all directions from stationary playground equipment and four times the height of the suspending bar around swings.

NO-NOs

Ropes, nets or pet leashes that could be a potential strangulation hazard should not be attached to the equipment.

SHARP EDGES

Sand down any sharp edges or protrusions and remove and replace any open s-hooks and protruding bolts.

OPENINGS

Check that openings in guardrails and between ladder rungs pose no hazard. Spaces should be less than 10cm or more than 25cm so that little feet (and heads) will not get stuck.

SWINGS

There should be adequate spacing between swings. Suspended swings should be at least 50cm apart. The distance between a swing and the support frame and between the ground and underside of the swing seat should also be at least 50cm. Seats should be made of a soft material and safely secured. Slide surfaces should not pose a burning hazard in hot weather.

Parents and childminders should also be reminded to ensure that older children are not only taught safety rules but also the importance of abiding by them. For instance, they should not walk in front of moving swings.

Younger children should preferably be fully supervised at all times while using the playground equipment, says Kotzé.

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