Playground Safety Checklist

Children on PlaygroundDid you know that over 200,000 children visit U.S. emergency rooms each year due to playground injuries? You can help make playgrounds safer by using this checklist as a guide to inspect your local school, community, and/or your backyard playground. If you have at least one marked box, contact the owner and politely voice your concern. Ask if there is anything you can do to help.

  • Appropriate Equipment Design - There should be separate playground areas designed for children ages 2 through 5 and 5 through 12. Metal slides should not be exposed to direct sunlight. The equipment should also have slip-resistant surfaces where children climb.
  • Protective Surfacing - The surfaces under and around play equipment should be soft enough to cushion falls. For most playground equipment, these surfaces should contain a minimum of 12 inches of one of the following: 
    • Wood chips
    • Mulch
    • Sand
    • Pea gravel

Certain synthetic surfaces can be used if they have been proven safe.

  • Fall Zones - To cushion a fall, the shock absorbing material should extend a minimum of 6 feet in all directions from stationary pieces of play equipment. In front of and behind swings, the material should extend a distance equal to twice the height of the suspending bar.
  • Equipment Spacing - Play structures should be spaced at least 12 feet apart to allow children space to circulate or fall without striking another structure. Moving pieces of equipment should be located in an area away from other play structures so children have adequate room to pass from one play area to another without being struck by a moving swing or by another child exiting from a slide.
  • Catch Points - There should be no dangerous pieces of hardware, such as protruding bolt ends and narrow gaps in metal connections or open "S" hooks at the top and bottom of swings. Exposed hardware can cut children, puncture skin, or catch clothing drawstrings, which could strangle a child. Also, ropes should be anchored securely so that they will not loop around a child's body.
  • Openings That Can Trap - Openings in guardrails, and spaces between platforms and between ladder rungs, should measure less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches. Children can get trapped and strangled in openings where they can fit their bodies but not their heads through the space.