It seems like being a kid and having bumps and bruises go hand in hand, and many of those boo-boo's can come from playgrounds. With proper precautions and supervision, however, playgrounds can be a wonderful boon to a religious organization. Jungle gyms and other kinds of equipment are a wonderful way to attract younger families and provide a hands-on way of guiding and teaching the children of your community. Are you doing all you can and should to make sure your kids are safe?
The most important part of playground safety is supervision by competent, attentive adults. A good general rule is to have one adult for every twenty children, though this ratio may need to be adjusted if the group is composed of special needs children, or those who are particularly rambunctious.
Some churches benefit from making a supervision plan or list of rules for the playground. This list should include suggestions of the children, and should be reviewed with the group as a whole to make sure everyone understands why the rules are in place. Keep in mind that children below the age of five will remember between two and four of your rules, on average, while older children may remember five or more -- make your most important rules the first few on the list!
Supervisors should be trained in first aid, and should have a well-stocked first aid kit available to use in case of emergency. For reasons of liability, if a child is injured, an accident report should be filed each time. These reports should identify the child, give the details of the incident, and identify the piece of equipment which contributed to the child's injury.
Playground Safety Tips
There are lots of ways to make a playground safer, and many of them are easy to implement. Playgrounds which are on hard surfaces, such as concrete, packed dirt, or even grass may contribute to children's injuries. Think about adding soft, weather-resistant rubber padding, gravel, or wood chips to help reduce the likelihood of a child getting hurt in a fall.
In the same spirit, do your best to minimize tripping hazards around the playground -- this is one of the most common ways to skin a knee, and will save your kids lots of bumps and bruises. Additionally, post signs which let kids know which equipment is appropriate for their age group, through both words and pictures. This is one of the easiest and least-utilized ways to help keep your kids safe.
In terms of the playground equipment itself, make sure that everything is in proper working order before allowing a child to play on it. Inspect wood and steel for cracks and rest, and periodically check fasteners to make sure that they haven't come loose. Metal fasteners should also be recessed so that they don't snag on children's clothing and cause falls. Ropes should be secured at both ends to reduce risks of choking and asphyxiation.
***NOTE: Never use residential playground equipment for your church's playground! In the result of a catastrophic failure or severe injury to a child, it could lead to harsh liability penalties that might spell financial disaster for your organization.
For more information on playground safety and ways to keep your kids safe, consult with your playground manufacturer and playground surfacing companies, both of which can easily be found through a quick online search. Additionally, the National Program for Playground Safety and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission may be able to offer more extensive information on how best to protect your children from the bumps and bruises that don't have to come with being a kid.