Playground Safety

Playgrounds and active play are an important part of childhood. Unfortunately, many injuries, and some deaths, happen on playgrounds each year. On home playgrounds, swings are responsible for most injuries. On public playgrounds, more injuries happen on climbers than on any other equipment.

Falls cause the majority of playground problems. There are specific actions that can reduce the chances of a fall causing serious injury.

Preventing Playground Fall Injuries

  • Be sure surfaces around playground equipment have at least 12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand or pea gravel.
  • Rubber mats or shredded rubber tires made for playgrounds may also be used.
  • The protective surface should extend out at least 6 feet in all directions around play equipment.
  • Look out for tripping hazards, like tree stumps, rocks and playground edgings and borders.
  • All elevated surfaces should have guardrails to prevent falls.

Strangulation Risk

Another major cause of playground tragedies is strangulation. Safe equipment can help prevent this.
  • Check playgrounds regularly for sharp edges or broken or missing parts, and make needed repairs promptly.
  • Protruding bolts or open S hooks can catch clothing or drawstrings on clothing and capture a child.
  • Spaces between openings in guardrails or ladders should measure less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches to prevent entrapment.


    • A critical factor in playground safety is supervision.
    • Always watch closely when children are actively playing on equipment.
    • Match the size of the equipment to the age and size of the child.
    • Enforce safety rules:
      • How to use equipment (don’t stand up on the sliding board)
      • What to wear (sneakers are safer than sandals)
      • What to avoid (never run in front of or behind the swings when they are in use)

    Additional Resources

    Detailed information about playground safety can be found in the following documents: