Playgrounds. Abstract. Introduction. Background Data. E&S Technical Information. Liability - PDF

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1 Liability Report Number: LB Release Date: December 18, 1996 Section Title: Premises/Operations Abstract The number of injuries associated with playgrounds has been estimated to be 170,200 yearly
1 Liability Report Number: LB Release Date: December 18, 1996 Section Title: Premises/Operations Abstract The number of injuries associated with playgrounds has been estimated to be 170,200 yearly based on the most recent Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) data. The extent of the exposure is broad and includes playgrounds located in or near schools, parks, camps, restaurants, and shopping centers. Playground hazards include faulty or damaged equipment and poorly maintained or damaged auxiliary structures, walks, and staircases, and crime. Loss control programs should emphasize proper supervision of playgrounds, maintenance of existing facilities, and protection against crime. Introduction Bodily injury due to falls in playgrounds is the principal general liability loss incurred in playgrounds. Hazards that contribute to all types of losses include poorly designed and maintained equipment, poorly maintained walks and staircases, lack of supervision, lack of security, and the lack of resilient surfaces under equipment. The premises coverage in most general liability policies is applicable to these types of losses. A considerable amount of information is provided in this report concerning design criteria for playground equipment. For a general liability insurance survey, these criteria should be used to determine if the equipment has been altered, abused, or improperly maintained by the user. For information on the product liability aspects of playground equipment and more comprehensive design criteria, see Product Safety Report PS-80-14, Playground Equipment. [1] Background Data The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimated that, during 1988, the last year for which data is available, 170,200 injuries to children were associated with playground equipment and auxiliary structures. Of these, 119,600 involved equipment in public playgrounds and 41,600 involved equipment used in home playgrounds. Other injuries were incurred with homemade products, such as rope and tree swings. A study performed by the CPSC, based on 10,730 injuries treated in hospitals, provided data on the percentage of injuries associated with public playground equipment. [11] Climbers 31.9% Slides 29.1% Swings 26.0% Seesaws 6.0% Merry-Go-Rounds 3.6% Other 3.4% 2 Extent of the Risk are commonly located next to schools and public and community centers, in children's camps and daycare centers, and in or next to fast-food restaurants and shopping centers. Public and private swimming pools may also have adjacent playgrounds. The equipment found in playgrounds may include swings, slides, seesaws, monkey bars, and jungle gyms. Frequently, sandboxes, basketball courts, and possibly a small pool are included. Children may bring other items to the playground, such as bats and balls or arts and crafts equipment. Crime in playgrounds is another risk. Goods stolen from children or their parents and assaults are also insurance concerns. Hazardous exposures specific to shelters, lavatories, and snack bars, such as electrical and plumbing equipment, vending machines, and cooking equipment are not addressed in this report. Playground Exposures Exposures in playgrounds may be categorized as follows: Equipment Walks, staircases, and ramps Crime Equipment Falls From Equipment The majority of injuries associated with public playground equipment involved falls to the surface below the equipment. Victims most frequently reported that they lost their grip, their feet slipped, they collided with or were pushed by another child, they jumped or intentionally dismounted from equipment, the equipment broke, or they lost their balance. [8] The harder the surface to which the victim falls, the greater the severity of the injury. Analysis of the surface under and around playground equipment is an essential loss control consideration, since about 75% of the injuries in both public and private playgrounds have resulted from falls to the surface below the equipment. Falls to Equipment Slides and climbers were the items of equipment most frequently associated with this hazard. [11] Impact With Moving Equipment Swings and seesaws were the items most frequently involved. Victims usually were injured when they walked in front of or behind a swing being used by another child. Those injured by seesaws usually were hit by one of the seats moving upward when the other end was pushed down. [11] Impact With Stationary Equipment Injuries occurred when victims ran into or bumped against a stationary item of equipment; climbers and slides were most frequently involved. [11] 3 Other Hazards Other injuries occurred when children had fingers caught in swing chairs, made contact with protruding hardware, sharp edges, or twisted limbs when going down slides. Head entrapment is another hazard. This may occur when children place their heads through an opening in one direction then, after turning their heads to a different orientation, are unable to withdraw from the opening. Another hazard involves anchoring devices. Anchoring devices for playground equipment, such as concrete footings and horizontal bars at the bottom of equipment, can be tripping hazards. [11] Walks, Staircases, and Ramps Walks, staircases, and ramps are major sources of tripping injuries. Cracks, potholes, and missing sections of concrete, as well as broken or missing handrails, may cause falls. Crime Vandalism Vandals who enter playgrounds may cause damage to key components of the equipment. The damage includes breaking or detaching swing chairs and seats, bending structural elements, and damaging protective handrails. Damaged equipment used by children could result in physical injuries. Robbery Children may be assaulted for money and other valuables. Food vendors also may be a target for thieves. Assault Physical assault of children may result in injuries. Loss Control The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in conjunction with the Consumer Federation of America, the American Society for Testing and Materials, and other safety-conscious organizations, have developed a loss control program for playgrounds. The recommendations are applicable to public playgrounds, but most are also useful for home play areas. The dominant concepts developed in the CPSC program emphasized the importance of supervision of playgrounds, protective surfaces, proper design of equipment, and comprehensive maintenance of the playground and the equipment. For insurance purposes, one additional consideration must be added: security. [2] General Basic loss control should include the installation of a perimeter barrier completely surrounding the playground to provide security when the playground is closed and also to prevent children from straying from the playground. The solution is usually a well-maintained fence. The playground should be organized into different areas to prevent injuries caused by conflicting activities. Children playing ball games should not be near areas where others are using swings. Also, children engaged in running games should be remote from quiet areas where others are engaged in predominately passive activities. For example, sandboxes should not be located near ball fields. Moving equipment, such as swings and merry-go-rounds, should be located in a corner or edge of the play area. Play equipment should be dispersed to avoid crowding in one area. The layout of equipment should be without visual barriers so that supervision of activities is not impaired. should have separate areas for younger children, since they require more attentive supervision. Slide exits should be located in an uncongested area. 4 Supervision Supervision of playgrounds is the most vital element in a comprehensive loss control program. The supervisor must be prepared to cope with routine situations, as well as with unusual problems. Control of events that occur in playgrounds is the prime requisite of this position. The supervisor must be on duty from the time the area is opened until the last child leaves. The first duty of the supervisor is to determine the condition of all equipment and play areas prior to opening the facility. If any equipment is damaged, repairs should be made or the equipment removed from service prior to the opening of the playground. The condition of grounds, walks, and staircases also must be checked. Inclement weather conditions may cause slippery conditions to develop or result in damaged walks. Once the playground is opened, the supervisor must be able to supervise the general use of the area. It may be necessary to demonstrate how the equipment should be safely used. An aptitude for working with children is essential. Settling quarrels between youngsters also may be necessary. The supervisor must be alert to hoodlums who may enter the area. Fights between children should be prevented. The use of bicycles and motorized vehicles should be excluded from play areas. When the playground is to be closed, all children must be required to leave, rest rooms checked for stragglers, equipment checked for damage, and the area securely locked, where possible. Playground supervisors must be trained to meet their responsibilities. The individual performing the work must have training in safety practices. A knowledge of first-aid is essential. Supervisors must know how to get help in case of emergencies. Rapid communication with an ambulance service and the police department is essential. Supervisors must be capable of reacting to unexpected hazards. For example, bee stings must be dealt with promptly, since some children are severely allergic to them and could go into shock. in public areas generally are unsupervised or only partially supervised. Under these circumstances, supervision by parents should be encouraged. Unsupervised activity will tend to increase the frequency and magnitude of losses, since minor injuries that are not properly and rapidly treated may develop into serious injuries. Also, preventive measures that could be administered by a supervisor will not be available. Unsupervised playgrounds should be inspected by representatives of the owner at least every day that they are open to the public. Walks, Ramps, and Staircases Walks, ramps, and staircases used in and around playgrounds should reflect the pattern of usage. They are not only used for pedestrians, but also for tricycles, carriages, strollers, and other wheeled vehicles. The principal hazards associated with walks, ramps, and staircases are trips and falls due to irregular surfaces. Therefore, dirt and gravel walks and ramps are not recommended, since they tend to develop depressions when used by wheeled vehicles. Hard surfaces made of macadam, asphalt, concrete, paving bricks or blocks, or other hard materials should be used for these surfaces. Surfaces should be smooth and pitched so that water will flow away from the paved areas. Slippery or loose paving materials should be avoided. Walks should be located at a safe distance from equipment so that children using them will not collide with pedestrians. Maintenance of surfaces is essential to repair potholes, cracks, and other irregularities that could cause tripping. Ramps are preferred to staircases whenever their use is practical. The slope of ramps should not exceed one foot (.31 m) of vertical rise to 8 feet (2.4 m) of horizontal length. Ramps should be equipped with handrails and reflect the needs of persons in wheelchairs, as well as parents pushing carriages. Provision should be made to drain water that may collect at the base of ramps. Where curbs and walks intersect, the surfaces should be smooth without irregularities. Staircases should be built with a slope of from the horizontal. Handrails should be in ( cm) from the top surface of the stair tread to the rail. Wooden handrails should be at least 2 in (5.1 cm) in diameter and metal rails at least 1-1/2 in (3.8 cm). [10] 5 Surfaces Around Equipment The severity of an injury caused by a fall from playground equipment can be reduced with the use of shock - absorbent surfaces. Hard surfacing materials, such as asphalt or concrete, are not suitable for use under and around playground equipment unless they are required as a base for other shock-absorbent materials, such as rubber mats. Earth surfaces, such as soils and hard-packed dirt are not recommended, because their shockabsorbing properties can vary considerably, depending on climatic conditions, such as moisture and temperature. Similarly, grass and turf are not recommended because their effectiveness in absorbing shock during a fall can be reduced considerably due to wear and environmental conditions. Acceptable playground surfacing materials are available in two basic types - unitary or loose-fill. Unitary materials are generally rubber or rubber-like materials in the form of mats that are held in place by a binder that is poured in place and cured to form a shock-absorbing surface. Some unitary materials require installation over a hard surface. Loose-fill materials also can be used for shock mitigation when installed to a sufficient depth. These materials include sand, gravel, wood chips, and shredded wood products. Loose-fill materials should not be installed over hard surfaces, such as asphalt or concrete. Criteria for the evaluation of the effectiveness of surfacing material are included in ASTM F 1292, Standard Specification for Impact Attenuation of Surface System Under and Around Playground Equipment. [7] The CPSC has conducted tests to determine the relative shock-absorbing properties of some loose-fill materials commonly used as surfaces under and around playground equipment. The tests were conducted in accordance with the procedure contained in the voluntary standard for playground surfacing systems, ASTM F Table 1 lists the critical height [Footnote 1 ] (expressed in feet) for each of seven materials when tested in an uncompressed state at depths of 6, 9, and 12 inches. The table also reports the Critical Height when a 9- inch depth of each material was tested in a compressed state. The ASTM criterion is a 200 G deceleration of the object dropped. [7] The table should be read as follows: If, for example, uncompressed wood mulch is used at a minimum depth of 6 inches, the critical height is 7 feet. If 9 inches of uncompressed wood mulch is used, the critical height is 10 feet. It should be noted that, for some materials, the Critical Height decreases when the material is compressed. Table 1. Critical Heights (in feet) of Tested Materials Material Uncompressed Uncompressed Compressed Depth: Compressed Depth: 9 Depth: 6 inches Depth: 9 inches 12 inches inches Wood Mulch Double ShreddedBark Mulch Uniform Wood Chips 6 7 12 6 Fine Sand Coarse Sand Fine Gravel Medium Gravel The critical heights shown in the above table may be used as a guide in selecting the type and depth of loosefill materials that will provide the necessary safety for equipment of various heights. There are other loose-fill materials, such as bark nuggets or shredded tires, that have shock-absorbing properties equivalent to those in the above table. These recommendation were developed using the method described in ASTM F [7] The depth of any loose-fill material may be reduced during use, resulting in different shock-absorbing properties. For this reason, a margin of safety should be considered in selecting the type and depth of material for a specific use. 6 Equipment Installation Proper assembly, installation, and maintenance of playground equipment to the manufacturer's specifications are crucial for its safe use. [5,6] Stability All playground equipment must be securely anchored in concrete that extends substantially below grade. The depth of the footings will vary with the frost line of the location. The anchoring system must be able to withstand the maximum anticipated forces during use that might cause it to overturn, tip, slide, or move. Documentation should be maintained that all play equipment has been thoroughly checked for stability prior to its first use. In addition, the equipment should be rechecked periodically for evidence of deterioration of the anchoring system. Hardware Condition The structural elements of playground equipment materials are subject to corrosion or deterioration. Ferrous metals should be painted, galvanized, or otherwise treated to prevent rust. All paints must meet the current CPSC regulation for lead content (0.06% maximum). Wooden structural elements should be rot- and insectresistant or otherwise treated to avoid deterioration. The wood should be visibly free of residues that may contain high levels of arsenic, creosote, pentachlorophenol, and tin oxide which are not recommended as preservatives for playground equipment. Hardware used on playground equipment should be equipped with lockwashers, self-locking nuts, or other fastener-locking means. In addition, all fasteners should be corrosion-resistant. Hardware and adjacent sheet metal parts should be free of sharp points, corners, or edges. Wooden parts should be free of splinters. All corners should be smooth or rounded. Edges and Projections Edges and projections on playground equipment should not be capable of entangling children's clothing, since this could cause serious bodily injury. This condition is particularly dangerous at the top of slides and climbers. See Reference 10 for the Protrusion Test Procedure. [Paragraph 7.2] Pinch, Crush, and Shearing Points Equipment must not contain any accessible pinch, crush, or shearing points that could injure children. These defects may develop as a result of extended use of the equipment. [10] Head Entrapment A component or a group of components should not form openings that could trap a child's head. A child's head may become entrapped as the child attempts to enter an opening either feet first or head first. Head entrapment by head-first entry generally occurs when a child places his head through an opening in one orientation, then after turning his head to a different orientation, is unable to withdraw it from the opening. Head entrapment by feet-first entry involves a child who is generally sitting or lying down and slides his feet into an opening that is large enough to permit passage of his body but is not large enough to permit passage of his head which consequently becomes entrapped. In general, an opening may present an entrapment hazard if the distance between any interior opposing surfaces is greater than 3.5 in (8.9 cm) and less than 9 in (22.98 cm). When any dimension of an opening is within this potentially hazardousrange, the opening must be considered as dangerous. This recommendation applies to all completely bounded openings (see Figure 1). Even openings that are low enough to permit children to touch the ground with their feet can present a risk of strangulation for an entrapped child, since younger children may not have the necessary cognitive ability and motor skills to extricate their heads, especially if scared or in a panic. Figure 1. Examples of Completely Bound Openings [10] 7 Angles The vertex angle formed by adjacent components on playground equipment should not be less than 55, unless the lower leg is horizontal or projects downward. An exception can be made if a rigid shield is attached to the vertex between adjacent components and the shield is of sufficient size to prevent a 9-in diameter (3.9 cm) circular template from simultaneously touching components on either side of the vertexes. Figure 2. Shield for Testing the Vertex Angle Formed by Adjacent Components on Playground Equipment [10] Anchors and Footings Anchoring devices for playground equipment, such as concrete footings or horizontal bars at the bottom of flexible climbers, should be installed below the playing surface to eliminate the hazard of tripping. This also will prevent children who may fall from sustaining additional injuries due to striking exposed footings and anchors. In
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