Safety on public playgrounds: Guidelines, inspections - and you

Safety on public playgrounds: Guidelines, inspections - and you

EUGENE, Ore. - Parents take their kids to the playground for some fun.

And while kids may be fearless on the equipment, there's a lot of that goes into public parks to make sure they're safe.

"I had this one episode - not my kid - that broke his arm on a swing that was worn and rusty," said Justin Azhocar, whose kids are 4 and 2.

Azhocar said he worries about his children every time they go on the playground. Since his friend's child was hurt, he now inspects the equipment to make sure the same thing doesn't happen to his kids.

That's something certified playground safety inspector Kevin Stacey does once a month.

"I'll get up on a high spot, and I'll look around and I'll shake the guard rails and barriers looking for screws missing or loose," Stacey said.

When the public asks, however, it's not usually about the equipment.

"I hear concerns once in a while, and one of the most is 'What's in that sand?'" Stacey said.

There are no state or national laws ensuring playground safety. Instead, there are guidelines issued by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Society for Testing and Materials.

But some parents worry about equipment rusting or being damaged by vandalism.

Stacey said they use vandal-proof fasteners and a special wrench to discourage vandals.

As for rusting, in the guidelines it says to use stainless steel bolts.

"All these bolt heads are rounded or recessed where they're not accessible to a drawstring or clothing that could catch on them, and stainless steel so they don't rust out," Stacey said.

And while going down a slide may be fun, it's important to read the signs. Most of the structures are not built for "bigger kids" like parents.

"When I do end up taking her to the park, it tends to be overrun by kids who are most of the time too large for the equipment that is there," said Jessica Thomason, whose daughter is 3.

Most playground structures are built with "age appropriateness" in mind.

"Kids develop differently, and so frequently what we do is make playgrounds that are suitable structures to 2-5 year old and then we have structures for 5-12 year olds," explained Nicole Ankeney, a landscape architect.

Ankeney and Stacey both said planning goes into playground design, and facilities are inspected. But they both stressed the importance of supervising your children.

"Some 40 to 44 percent of public playground accidents are said to be the results of not properly supervising your kids," Stacey said.

Both the Eugene and Springfield school districts follow the CPSC and ATSM guidelines and have playground inspectors. During recess, staff supervise students when they're on the playgrounds.

At the Willamalane Park and Recreation District, most playground malfunctions are easy to point out, like a broken swing.

Parents are urged to report any damaged or dangerous playground conditions in Springfield by contacting Willamalane.

In Eugene city parks, you can submit a report via ParkWatch online.