Editor’s Note: The safety tip for the month of May is provided by Mifflin County Communities That Care (CTC). This is an ongoing monthly series provided by CTC to help inform the public about key areas of health and or safety concerns. This month’s article was written by Nikki Hidlay, Chairperson Mifflin County Playground Association, a United Way Agency.
As the days grow longer, the weather improves, and baseball games begin, we will see an increasing number of children using our parks and playgrounds. Playgrounds and outdoor play equipment provide fun and exercise, but can also pose an array of safety hazards to our children. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 200,000 kids are treated in emergency rooms across the USA for playground related injuries. By following some simple safety guidelines, we can make the playground a safe and entertaining area for our children.
KidsHealth.org, an informational website maintained by the Nemours Foundation, provides safety information to parents on a variety of topics concerning children’s heath, including playground safety. Here is some info from the KidsHealth.org site:
Adult Supervision is the primary way to prevent playground injuries. Most accidents can be avoided when adults supervise their children’s play. It is essential that you check to make sure that the playground equipment is age-appropriate and is free of rust, sharp edges or broken pieces.
Playground design and surface materials:
Having a proper playground surface is one of the most important factors in reducing injury. Concrete, blacktop, and asphalt are unacceptable surfaces. Grass and soil also do NOT provide enough cushion to protect children from falls.
Woodchips, sand, pea gravel, shredded rubber, or surfacing mats are recommended. Loose fill should be at least 9-12 inches deep for equipment up to 8 feet in height. Cushioned surfaces should extend at least 6 feet past the equipment.
This is important criteria for home play sets as well. The CDC indicates that although 75% of injuries occur at public playgrounds, most fatal playground accidents occur on home equipment.
If your local playground has a sand box, make sure it is free of debris and kept covered to prevent contamination from animals.
Check all metal equipment, especially slides, in the summer months. The equipment can become dangerously hot and cause burns.
Don’t wear clothes with drawstrings or other strings on the playground. Drawstrings, purses, and necklaces could get caught on equipment and accidentally strangle a child.
Help keep your playground clean and safe by picking up trash, using equipment properly, and reporting problems to the local municipality. Many local municipalities in Mifflin County have worked to replace and upgrade their playground facilities in the last few years though grants and local support. Your assistance in reporting problems is essential to maintaining equipment safety. Often, local service groups, and volunteers with the United Way Day of Caring, help to clean and perform maintenance duties at local playground facilities. You can make a difference in your community park or playground by volunteering to assist with clean up and maintenance.
Mifflin County Playground Association: The Mifflin County Playground Association, formed in 1957, is a United Way Agency and receives funds to assist in carrying out its mission to provide children with summer recreational programs for play and socialization in a safe environment.
There are currently 13 active playground programs in Mifflin County. The name “playground association” can be misleading. Some of the programs are not actually located at a site with playground equipment but this term represents the recreation program that is held at the various locations.
Each playground is independently managed by its own municipality or private recreation association.
We encourage you to contact your local playground representative to inquire about programming available to your child. Typically programming is offered for 4-8 weeks during the summer to children aged 5-13 but each program is different. You can receive a summer schedule and get further information by contacting the following playground program representatives:
Armagh (Milroy): Fran Riden at 667-3378
Belleville: Michelle Shirey at 935-2875
Burnham: Jyl Hayes at 248-2692
Church Hill: Martha Shank at 667-3100
Hilltop (Yeagertown): Jaynie Dillon at 248-1799
Highland Park: Derry Twp. Office at 248-8151
Longfellow: Chuck Hackenberry at 899-5658/899-6958
South End (Lewistown) and Rec. Park: Nikki Hidlay at 248-9875
Reedsville: Leslie Sheaffer at 667-2514
Rothrock (McVeytown): Lisa Heckman at 994-6823
Terrace: Borough Office at 248-4383
Wagner (McClure): Steve Swigart at 935-9340 or 250-5978