Home' Teacher : May 2010 Contents Play has a hugely important place in the develop-
ment of your students, which is why schools
need to provide learning environments that
enable opportunities for quality play. Really
well-designed playgrounds stimulate students
to play and to extend their play, but it's this
that puts schools at the pointy end when
it comes to safety. An exciting playground
offers enough challenge that it'll stimulate
your students to play at the boundary of
their current levels of skill -- which means
that at some point a student might come
Before you remove all your swings and
raze all your monkey bars, though, it's
worth remembering that no school play-
ground can ever be 100 per cent safe. Your
main responsibility is to address any hazards
that would pose a foreseeable risk, to enable
students to play in reasonable safety.
According to research reported by Angela
Clapperton and Erin Cassell 90 per cent of play-
ground injuries are caused by falls from play equip-
ment. As Clapperton and Cassell report, fractures are
the most common injury, accounting for 85 per cent of
hospital admissions and 47 per cent of emergency depart-
ment presentations. The most frequently injuries are forearm
or elbow fractures, which account for 50 per cent of all play-
ground equipment fall injuries.
Clapperton and Cassell say that those planning playgrounds
and purchasing playground equipment, especially climbing equip-
ment and monkey bars, should, 'Consider resea rch evidence that
shows that the critical freefall height for arm fractures from play-
ground equipment is 1.5 metres. Innovative landscaping solutions
-- mounding and excavation -- have the potential to reduce the
freefall height from slides and climbing apparatus in playgrounds
without diminishing challenge.'
The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, recom mends the
installation of guardrails on any platform above half a metre, with
guardrails to 900 millimetres in height so that students can't climb
any higher. It's worth adding that guardrails should be vertical
not horizontal, so they can't be climbed.
Keep in mind that falls don't just refer to falls off play equip-
ment on to the ground. Students can also fall from equipment on
to a platform or deck. Platforms or decks accessible by steps with
handrails or a ladder should be no higher than 600 millimetres. If
platforms or decks are accessible without steps with handrails or
a ladder, they should be no higher than 400 millimetres.
According to the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne, you
need a fall zone of impact-absorbing material underneath all play
equipment of half a metre or higher. Make sure that fall zone
material extends at least 2.5 metres beyond the outside edges of
the equipment. Impact-absorbing material can be loose fill such
as pine bark or mulch 250 millimetres deep, or material such as
synthetic grass or wet-pour rubber. Remember, loose fill doesn't
mean sand, which can become a very hard surface when com-
pacted, especially after rain.
You also need to ensure you have a maintenance procedure
for your playground that includes inspection, repair and replace -
ment of play equipment, and inspection, repair and replacement
of impact-absorbing material.
Good playground design also ensures entrapment areas, pinch,
crush or catch points, protrusions, tripping hazards, and sharp
edges or dangerous surfaces are avoided.
There are two further design features you need to consider,
though. First, you need to design your playground to avoid over-
crowding, since overcrowding can lead to collisions and conse-
quent injury. Australian Standard AS4685 recommends that you
keep a minimum 2.5 metres between any piece of play equipment
and anything else -- paths, fences, trees, buildings and other play
equipment -- in schools.
Second, you need to design your playground to enable effective
super vision. You should ensure supervisors have clear sight lines
-- the minimum 2.5 metres between any piece of play equipment
and anything else helps you to do this -- but also ensure there's
shade, shelter and seating. Basically, you need to make sure your
playground is a comfortable place for supervisors. That ensures
they're close to the play they're supervising. You've heard of close
super vision? That's where the super visor is close.
Your school playground should have hard surface areas for ball
games, hopscotch and the like, rebound walls; grassed areas for
ball games, running around and doing cartwheels; sandplay areas;
gardens, shrubs and trees, where younger students might hide
or make cubbies; slides, horizontal and vertical ladders; climb-
ing frames; and tables and seats. In general, seesaws, swings,
maypoles, merry-go -rounds, roundabouts or flying foxes are not
approved kinds of playground equipment and cannot be erected
in school grounds.
Suppliers of play equipment need to give written confirma-
tion that their equipment is constructed and installed to meet
Australian Standard AS4685, and supply inspection and main-
tenance procedures to ensure the equipment continues to meet
Australian Standard AS4685. T
Clappe rton, A. & Cassell, E . (2005). Consumer product-
related injury (1): Playground equipment and trampolines.
Hazard (61). (Victorian Injury Sur veillance Unit, Mon ash
University Accident Research Centre.) Available at ww w.
FEATURE -- SPORTS, HEALTH & PLAY 43
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