Question: The Canada Safety Council (CSA) asks, "What is the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations in Canada's children?"

Answer: Falls lead in all age groups up to 19 years old. For example, falls account for 77 percentage of injuries on playground equipment. Every year, about 28,000 children are injured at playgrounds in Canada according to the Canadian Paediatric Society. Many of these injuries are fractures that must be treated in the operating room.

Entanglement hazard is another, often overlooked, serious problem with old standard playground equipment. Children have been strangled to death when a clothing drawstring caught on equipment.

Is the playground equipment your children use a dangerous place for them to play? Take a close look in your backyard. When buying a home that includes an existing play set, be sure the equipment meets new safety standards before you add it to the value side of the "is this the right price to pay?" purchasing equation.

In 1998, the Canadian Standards Association, a nonprofit, membership-based organization, introduced a new edition of its standard for public play spaces and equipment. CSA serves business, industry, government and consumers in Canada and the global marketplace by working in Canada and around the world to develop standards that address real needs and enhance public safety and health.

More and more agencies are implementing the CSA standard, according to Safety Council president Emile Therien. The Council is urging all agencies that operate playgrounds to implement the voluntary standard.

Canadian Standards Association does not test or certify playground equipment, so Canadian parents won't find the familiar CSA Mark on equipment at home or in daycares, parks or schools. Here's what you should look to ensure a safe play environment for your children:

  • Head Entrapment: Requirements have been changed so that gaps in play space equipment must be less than 90 mm (3.6 inches), or must be greater than 225 mm (9 inches). This will help to prevent serious head and neck injuries.
  • Protective Barriers and Guardrails: Heights have changed in an effort to keep children from inadvertently falling off platforms and elevated play surfaces. For children 18 months to 5 years the barrier should be at least 725 mm (29 inches). For children 5 to 12, the top height should be at least 950 mm (38 inches).
  • Fall Heights: A fall height is defined as the vertical distance between the top of a guard rail or designated play surface and the protective surfacing beneath it. As a fall height increases, so does the amount of protective surfacing required beneath it. Protective surfacing zone areas are required beneath any piece of equipment from which a child could fall. Surfaces must be designed to absorb impact and cushion a fall. Protective surfacing can be composed of a variety materials, including wood chips, fine and coarse sand, engineered wood fibres and fine and medium gravel.
  • Protection Against Entanglement: There shall be no causes of entanglement in any locations that could entangle drawstrings or other clothing on play equipment where there is uncontrolled motion, like sliding and jumping.
  • Maintenance: The equipment must be inspected frequently for potential hazards.

Anticipation is a powerful tool to keep your home and backyard safe for you and your children.

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