A playground offers a place of fun and recreation for the children of your house of worship. However, improperly installed or maintained playground equipment can cause serious falls and injuries to children. In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 200,000 children were seen in the emergency room in the past year due to injuries sustained on a playground. The most common injuries were fractures (39 percent), followed by lacerations (22 percent), contusions/abrasions and strains/sprains. While not all accidents can be avoided, the following tips will help to make the church playground a safer place.

Is the playground equipment commercial grade?

As a house of worship, the playground is considered open to use by the public, and only commercial grade equipment should be installed on a publicly used playground. Commercial grade playground is equipment that is constructed with more durable materials than residential grade equipment to withstand the increased use without increasing the likelihood of exposure to injury. While the initial investment may be higher, the lifespan of commercial grade equipment is much longer than residential grade equipment, and much safer when properly maintained.


  • Use only commercial grade playground equipment and have it installed according to the manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Consider which age groups will be using the equipment and purchase it accordingly.
  • Request detailed product information from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C. 20207, or visit
  • Be selective of any playground equipment donations. Most times, the donated equipment is residential grade and in declining condition.


  1. Commercial grade playground equipment

    Install commercial grade playground equipment according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Was safety a major consideration when designing the layout of the playground?

To provide a safe playground, the location of the playground site and the organization of the equipment within the site are two important factors that should be considered when designing the layout of a playground. When choosing the location its important for the site to be located on flat ground as well as the area being located where any obstacles or hazards children could encounter when traveling to and from the playground site are eliminated. Playground should also provide ample space with association to the type of playground equipment that will be installed. Taking the time to choose an appropriate location and then design the playground equipment around this location should be the first step in providing a safe playground.


When choosing a location to build a playground, the following should be taken into consideration.

  • The playground should be built in a location which will eliminate any obstacles or hazards children could encounter when traveling to and from the playground site. For example, children should not have to cross a street or travel through a parking lot to get to the playground.
  • The playground should not be built in a flood prone area. Flooding will displace and/or damage shock absorbing safety materials.
  • The playground should have appropriate boundaries, such as fences or landscape hedges, so that children cannot leave, and others cannot enter the playground area unnoticed.
  • Areas for physical activities, such as play equipment or open fields, should be separate from areas for more passive or quiet activities, such as sandbox play.
  • Playground equipment is designed for different developmental age groups. Equipment designed for ages two to five should be kept separate from that designed for ages five to 12.
  • Heavily used pieces of equipment should be spread around to avoid crowding in any one area.
  • There should be no visual barriers between equipment and activity areas so that those supervising children can keep a clear line of sight.
  • Follow CPSC guidelines for adequate use zones around the equipment.
  • Proper signage should be installed to alert users of the playground rules and age recommendations.


  1. Playground location

    Review the current or future location of the playground to determine if it the playground is located in the best possible location, eliminating any obstacles or hazards children may come into contact with traveling to and from the playground.

  2. Playground equipment organization

    Review the organization of your current or future playground’s equipment to determine if the equipment is properly organized in a fashion that allows for safe use of the equipment

  3. Playground equipment types

    Review the types of equipment of your current or future playground determine if the appropriate types of equipment are being made available for the age groups of children that will be using the playground.

Is an appropriate shock absorbing surface provided in and around the playground equipment?

Nearly 70 percent of injuries on a playground result from a fall. The surface in and around playground equipment can be a major factor in determining the injury causing potential of a fall. A fall onto a shock absorbing surface is less likely to cause an injury than a fall onto a hard surface. Because head injuries from a fall can be life threatening, the more shock absorbing a surface can be made, the greater the likelihood of reducing severe injuries. Hard surface materials, such as asphalt or concrete are unsuitable for use under and around playground equipment. Earth surfaces, such as soil and hard packed dirt also are not recommended because they have poor shock absorbing properties. Similarly, grass and turf are not recommended because wear and environmental conditions can reduce their effectiveness in absorbing shock during a fall.

Claims Example(s):

  • A five-year-old boy fell off a four-foot platform on playground equipment and landed on his head. The injury required surgery to remove pressure from the boy's brain. The boy's parents claimed that there was not enough protective material around the playground equipment. The church contended they ordered more sand three weeks prior to accident but it didn't arrive until three days after. There was no record of the order. Total cost of loss was $584,000.
  • A nine-year-old boy fell from the playground's overhead monkey bars and fractured his wrist upon landing. The bars were seven feet from the ground and the protective material was only two inches of sand, instead of nine. The boy's fracture occurred on a growth plate causing his wrist to grow slower and at an angle.


  • If using loose-fill surfacing materials, ensure surfaces around playground equipment have at least nine to 12 inches of wood chips, wood mulch/engineered wood fiber, sand, or pea gravel. Another loose-fill option is shredded rubber mulch that only requires a depth of 6 inches.
  • If using unitary surfacing materials, such as rubber tiles, artificial turf, or poured in place rubber, ensure that the materials have been tested and in compliance with ASTM F1292.
  • Check that protective surfacing extends at least six feet in all directions from the play equipment. For swings, be sure surfacing extends, in back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar.

The consumer product safety commission (CPSC) has developed a booklet, "Handbook on Public Playground Safety," that covers the topic of providing and appropriate surfacing in and around playground equipment in detail. This booklet should be obtained and the section regarding playground surfacing should be reviewed.


  1. Playground surface installation

    An appropriate shock absorbing surface needs to be placed in and around the existing playground equipment.

  2. Playground surface inspections

    Periodically inspect the playgrounds shock absorbing surface to help insure the surface is properly maintained.

Is the playground equipment periodically inspected and maintained?

If installed according to the manufacturer's recommendations, commercial playground equipment is designed to withstand the day-to-day wear and tear generated from heavy use by children. However over time, even the best manufactured equipment will deteriorate and the safety of the equipment will be jeopardized if proper inspection and maintenance are not conducted. Regular periodic inspections should be conducted to keep the playground equipment in good working order and free of any hazards that could endanger the safety of any children using the playground.


To help provide and maintain a safe playground, the following checklist should be reviewed:

  • All playground equipment should be installed and maintained according to manufacturer's recommendations.
  • A maintenance schedule for the entire playground should be created, taking into consideration the type of equipment, surfacing, frequency of use and local climate.
  • All equipment should be inspected for the below items on a regular basis.
    • There should be no sharp points, corners and edges on any of the equipment's parts.
    • All metal or wood corners should be rounded, while wood parts should be smooth and free of splinters.
    • Protective caps should not be able to be loosened or removed without the use of a tool.
    • Any missing or damaged protective caps should be replaced.
    • Fasteners and connectors should not be able to be loosened or removed without the use of a tool.
    • Lock washers, self-locking nuts or other locking means should be provided for all nuts and bolts to prevent them from easily becoming loosened.
    • All hardware should be made of a corrosion resistant material.
    • To reduce the risk of entrapment, there should be no openings on playground equipment that measure between 3.5 and nine inches. The only exception would be where the playground equipment comes into contact with the ground. Pay special attention to openings at the top of a slide, between platforms and on climbers where the distance between rungs might be less than nine inches.
    • Equipment should be securely anchored to the ground and all anchoring devices should be below ground to eliminate the potential for tripping hazards.
    • Protrusions or projections should not be capable of entangling children's clothing.
    • There should be no broken or missing components in:
      • Handrails;
      • Guardrails;
      • Protective barriers; and
      • Steps or rungs on ladders.
  • Any metal playground equipment should be appropriately painted, galvanized or otherwise treated to prevent rust. Caution should be taken to ensure that the paint or similar finish does not contain a harmful amount of lead. If older playground equipment is being utilized, the finish should be tested to determine the amount of lead, especially if the finish is beginning to flake or peel.
  • S-hooks connecting the seat to the vertical chains should not have a gap larger than 0.04 inches (about the thickness of a dime).
  • The playground should be inspected for broken glass or other dangerous debris.
  • Appropriate trash receptacles should be conveniently located and maintained on the playground.
  • The shock absorbing surface in and around the playground equipment should inspected to determine that it has not been displaced or compacted in high traffic areas.
  • Any tripping hazards, such as exposed concrete footings, tree stumps and rocks should be removed or corrected.
  • Any areas that have inadequate drainage or low spots that would allow standing water should be repaired.


  1. Playground inspection policy

    Develop and implement a written policy regarding the inspecting your church’s playground equipment on a regular periodic basis for any hazards that could endanger the safety of any children using the playground.

  2. Playground inspection employee designation

    Assign designated employees and/or volunteers to conduct the regular periodic inspections.

  3. Playground inspection policy staff training

    Train all employees and/or volunteers whose jobs are impacted by your church’s policy on how to properly conduct a playground inspection and look for any hazards that could endanger the safety of any children using the playground

Does the playground contain any hazardous types of playground equipment?

Injuries can occur on the safest of all playgrounds. However, injuries will be drastically decreased and the severity of any injuries that do occur will be reduced if the appropriate safety measures are taken. One step that can be taken is to eliminate any hazardous types of equipment from the playground. Any equipment that is out of date, in poor condition or simply hazardous in nature should be removed for the safety of the children utilizing the equipment.


To reduce the chances of injury, the following types of playground equipment should be removed from any playground:

  • Animal figure swings and/or older spring loaded equipment.
  • Glider swings that hold more than one child at a time.
  • Free-swinging ropes that may fray or other-wise form a loop. Any kind of rope attached to play equipment poses a strangulation hazard, so never let children tie jump ropes or pet leashes onto the equipment.
  • Exercise rings (as used in gymnastics) and trapeze bars.
  • Metal slides exposed to direct sunlight without shade.
  • Monkey bars. People use the terms monkey bars, jungle gyms and climbing equipment interchangeably, but actual monkey bars are a specific type of climbing equipment with interior bars from which a child may fall from a height greater than 18 inches. In the early 1980s, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that monkey bars were unsuitable for safe playgrounds.
  • Trampolines. These are never appropriate for safe playgrounds.
  • Fulcrum seesaws without partial car tires, or some other shock-absorbing material embedded in the ground underneath the seats, or secured on the underside of the seats.
  • Swings with seats that are made of wood, metal or hard plastic. Seats should be made of rubber or canvas.


  1. Hazardous playground equipment

    Inspect the playground for any hazardous types of playground equipment that may be present

  2. Hazardous playground equipment removal

    Remove any hazardous types of playground equipment noted when inspecting the playground.

Is the playground appropriately supervised?

Without adequate supervision, even playgrounds that are designed, installed and maintained in accordance with safety guidelines and standards can still impose hazards to children. Supervisors can be paid employees, volunteers or even parents. However, they should all have one thing in common, which is to understand the basics of playground safety. A trained playground supervisor can help reduce the number and severity of playground injuries.


To adequately supervise a playground, all supervisors should be trained on the following:

  • The types of playground equipment provided
  • The hazards associated with the different types of playground equipment provided
  • Age-appropriateness of playground equipment
  • Strangulation or entrapment hazards for children on the playground, including scarves, jackets or sweatshirts with hoods or drawstrings, connected mittens or gloves, jewelry and bicycle helmets
  • First Aid
  • The church’s procedures regarding how to handle emergency situations, such as how to appropriately handle a playground injury that would require medical attention


  1. Playground supervision policy

    Develop and implement a written policy regarding your church’s procedures on the supervision of playground activities.

  2. Playground supervisors

    Assign designated employees and/or volunteers to provide supervision of playground activities.

  3. Playground supervision policy staff training

    Train all employees and/or volunteers whose jobs are impacted by the procedures outlined in your church’s policy on the supervision of playground activities.