Playground Safety Guidelines

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, over 200,000 children’s emergency room visits annually are due to injuries acquired while on a playground. Of these injuries, 44% are due to falls, while 23% are due to the equipment-related hazards resulting from design or assembly. Measures may be taken to reduce the likelihood of these injuries occurring on your premises and interrupting the kids’ fun on the playground.


Lack of adequate supervision and monitoring of equipment usage is the primary reasoning behind playground injuries. Staff supervisors should keep in mind that:

  • They should be diligent in watching, guiding, and controlling the behavior of children. This is not a time for doing any other activity. Child-to-staff ratios should be maintained.
  • Pre-school aged children require more attentive supervision than older children, yet older children nonetheless still require supervision
  • Not all playground equipment is appropriate for children of all ages or development skills:
    • For examples of age appropriate equipment, see the CPSC Public Playground Safety Handbook (note: I’m not sure if we can use the table due to copyright issues)
  • Prior to usage of the playground, check for broken or worn equipment

Fall Protection

Accidents are inevitable on a playground, but certain precautions are recommended by the CPSC in order to reduce the likelihood that a simple accident will result in a serious injury.

  • Ensure that the playground being used has appropriate surfacing that is energy-absorbing
    • Unitary materials such a rubber mats or tiles
    • Loose-fill surfacing materials such as engineered wood fiber or rubber mulch
  • If using loose-fill materials ensure that:
    • No less than 9 inches of loose-fill material is used
    • At least 25% compression over time is accounted for (i.e. 12 inches of initial fill will compress down to 9 inches)
    • There is a method for containing the material around the perimeter of the playground
    • Good drainage is possible in order to maintain the loose-fill surfacing
    • More material is placed at highly-trafficked areas such as under swings and at slide exits

Equipment & Hardware

The Redwoods Group typically recommends following manufacturers’ guidelines when it comes to maintenance of playground equipment, but below are some general recommendations for staff to keep in mind during equipment checks.

  • Hardware should be smooth against the surface of the playground and should be unable to be loosened or removed without tools
  • S-hooks and C-hooks should be tightly closed, meaning that there is no gap or space greater than 0.04 inches (about the thickness of a dime).
  • Openings that are between 3.5 and 9 inches pose a potential head entrapment threat and should not be in the playground area
  • Ensure that sharp points, corners, and edges are not exposed. All corners should be rounded
  • There should be a minimum of 6 feet clear in all directions around each piece of playground equipment in which adjacent play surfaces are less than 30 inches high
  • There should be a minimum of 9 feet between equipment when adjacent play surfaces are more than 30 inches high
  • There should be no rust, rot, cracks, or splinters on any equipment
  • All surfaces with an elevation above 18 inches should have guard rails
  • All equipment should be securely anchored to the group to prevent any potential movement or shifting
  • Although inspections should be done prior to each use of the playground, it is incredibly vital to do a thorough inspection of the playground after a season change or inclement weather.