You've spruced up your lawn (check), gussied up the patio furniture (check) and washed the windows (check), but have you inspected your child's backyard playset? If not, play it safe and give it a spring assessment for action.
Each year, more than 50,000 kids go to the emergency department because of injuries on home playground equipment and about 15 children die each ear as a result of playground-equipment-related incidents, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
Many swing sets and jungle gyms look okay, but they may not be up to snuff, especially for your child's latest athletic escapades. "After several months of growing, kids can put more wear and tear on playsets because they can do more than they could last fall," says John Drengenberg, the director of consumer affairs at Underwriters Laboratories (UL), in Northbrook, Illinois.
Most injuries occur when kids falls from the equipment. So first thing, make sure the surface underneath your child's swing set or jungle gym is still adequate. Grass doesn't cut it. Falls happen so cushion your child's playground with at least 9 inches of deep loose fill--engineered wood fiber or shredded rubber wood mulch for equipment up to 7 feet high, 9 inches of sand or pea gravel for equipment up to 5 feet high. It should extend 6 feet in all directions. "The right surfacing can make the difference between a broken bone or just a bruise," says Gary Smith, M.D., President of the Child Injury Prevention Alliance and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Beyond that, here's a roundup of what to look for:
Finally, keep an eye on your kids while they're playing and don't let them attach rope, jump rope, a pet's leash or cords of any kind to playground equipment. Kids or their clothes can get entangled, a potentially lethal situation. Some home playground equipment deaths are due to falls, but most of them occur because of strangulation.