A national survey of elementary-school playground equipment has found serious design and maintenance problems that recreation specialists say are contributing to an increasing number of schoolground accidents.
The report also faults playgrounds for generally failing to take the developmental needs of children into account, saying that more than 36 percent of the playgrounds studied did not even have equipment of a size appropriate for young children.
The survey, which included 206 playgrounds in 23 states, was conducted by the American Association for Leisure and Recreation, one of the six national groups making up the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance.
The 34 volunteer experts who assessed the playgrounds found sharp corners, edges, or projections common on swings, seesaws, and other equipment. And on more than half of the rotating equipment, the area surrounding the rotation post was open, mak4ing it possible for a child to fall through.
In addition, the experts said that “fingers and toes could be pinched or crushed on spring-rocking equipment and seesaws.”
Other serious safety concerns were raised by the equipment’s maintenance, the report says. “It is obvious from survey data that school maintenance departments and custodial staffs either overlook the condition of playground play structures or are not called on by the school administrators and teachers to repair them.”
The report cites as evidence of such disrepair the fact that sharp edges or projections were found on more than a third of the sliding equipment in schools. On 29 percent of the equipment studied, missing or broken parts were evident, it says, and there was an average of 5.6 exposed concrete footings around the support structures.
“The results of the survey demonstrate,” the report concludes, “that if design improvements have occurred, they have not been sufficient to improve the level of safety.”
Playgrounds were also found to be rarely accessible to handicapped children, with only 3.6 percent allowing a child in a wheelchair to get up to and on the play equipment.
Copies of Where Our Children Play: Elementary School Playground Equipment, are available for $12.95 from the aalr at 1900 Association Dr., Reston, Va. 22091. The stock number is 0-88314-390-9.
The association has also produced a workbook for planning, designing, and managing outdoor play settings for children, Play for All Guidelines, which is also available for $12.95.
A version of this article appeared in the September 27, 1989 edition of Education Week as Safety Is Found Lacking on Playgrounds