Playground Safety

National Playground Safety Week is April 21-25, 2014

playground safety

Each year, 3,302 Utah elementary school students are injured at school. That's enough students to fill the average Utah elementary classroom 143 times! Most of these injuries occur on a playground or playfield, with two-thirds of the injuries happening during recess. Playing on monkey bars and falls are common school or playground related injuries.

Most of the common safety hazards are the result of everyday use and wear-and-tear over time. Common hazards include improper surfaces beneath playground equipment, loose nuts and bolts, cracked slides, and worn swings.

improper surface beneath swing

loose bolt on playground

crack in slide


Data from the Student Injury Reporting System showed that from 2005-2008:

  • 70.5% of elementary school injuries occurred on the playground or playfield.
  • More playground injuries occurred during 5th grade than any other grade.
  • Two-thirds (65.2%) of elementary school injuries occurred during recess. The most common activities during which injuries occurred were playing on bars (20.7%), running (18.0%), and walking (11%).
  • Falls were the cause of 30.7% of all playground injuries, followed by tripping or slipping (26.9%) and collisions (21.3%).
  • The top five injuries received included possible fracture/broken bones, cut/laceration, bump/bruise/contusion, sprain/strain/tear, and possible concussion. 

(Source: Elementary School Injuries in Utah, 2005-2008 fact sheet)

Playground Safety Checklists

Common Playground Safety Hazards
  • Broken equipment such as loose bolts, missing end caps, cracks, etc.
  • Broken glass & other trash
  • Cracks in plastics
  • Loose anchoring
  • Hazardous or dangerous debris
  • Insect damage
  • Problems with surfacing
  • Displaced loose-fill surfacing
  • Holes, flakes, and/or buckling of unitary surfacing
  • User modifications (such as ropes tied to parts or equipment rearranged)
  • Vandalism
  • Worn, loose, damaged, or missing parts
  • Wood splitting
  • Rusted or corroded metals
  • Rot

(Source: Public Playground Safety Handbook from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission)

Types of Surfacing Materials

Appropriate Surfacing
Inappropriate Surfacing
  • Any material tested to ASTM F1292, including unitary surfaces, engineered wood fiber, etc.
  • Asphalt
  • Pea gravel*
  • Carpet not tested to ASTM F1292
  • Sand*
  • Concrete
  • Shredded/recycled rubber mulch*
  • Dirt
  • Wood mulch (chromated copper arsenate (CCA)-treated wood product)*
  • Grass
  • Wood chips*
  • CCA treated wood mulch

*Loose-fill materials will compress at least 25% over time due to use and weathering. Never use less than 9 inches of loose-fill material. Shallower depths are too easily displaced and compacted.

(Sources: Public Playground Safety Handbook from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission; What Lies Beneath article from Parks & Recreation, November 2005; S.A.F.E. Fall Surfacing from the National Program on Playground Safety)


Elementary School Injuries in Utah