With Labor Day just a couple of weeks away, fall sports programs at your school or in your community will soon be ramping up again. While organized team sports offer valuable opportunities for kids to learn teamwork, responsibility, and sportsmanship, they can also carry the risk of serious injury: in the year 2013 alone, 1.24 million kids were treated in emergency rooms as the result of sports injuries.
Keeping kids safe on the field or the court is a group effort. Parents and the kids themselves bear part of the responsibility, as do coaches and team organizers. As you prepare to get your teams in gear, keep in mind these five safety pointers:
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. It’s still plenty hot here in southeast Texas, and even when the weather begins to cool off, adequate hydration is a must. Make sure plenty of fresh water is available before, during, and after all practices, and schedule water breaks for every 15-20 minutes. It’s also important that kids learn to recognize the early signs of dehydration, including headache, dry lips, dizziness, and cramps.
- Enforce a zero-tolerance policy on “dirty play.” When adrenaline is running high and the game is on the line, some kids may be tempted to bend the rules and take cheap shots to gain an advantage. Make sure all players on the team (and their parents) understand the importance of fair play and respect for others, and address infractions promptly and appropriately.
- Encourage kids to speak up about injuries. Sometimes kids will try to “tough it out” when they suspect something is wrong; some may even see it as a sign of weakness to admit being injured. Have your coaches emphasize to the kids that their health is more important than winning any game, and let them know it’s OK to speak up any time they suspect an injury.
- Train coaches in injury prevention and first aid. All coaches should receive basic training in the prevention, recognition, and initial treatment of sports-related injuries. Make sure that a complete first aid kit is readily available at all times, and that it contains supplies appropriate to the sport (remember to check expiration dates regularly).
- Check surfaces. Uneven surfaces, potholes, and obstructions pose unnecessary injury risks for the whole team. Before every practice, make sure someone walks the entire field or court to ensure that the playing surface is free of hazards.
For more information on preventing kids’ sports injuries, check out the Safe Kids Worldwide sports page at safekids.org/sports. By taking a few precautions and putting some sensible rules and policies in place, you can ensure that the fun continues all season long — and keep injuries at bay.
With summer nearly here, it won’t be long before kids and families begin flocking to your playground. While you get your equipment ready for the “summer rush,” you’ll also want to pay attention to the walkways and sidewalks around your play area. Poorly maintained walkways can detract from the eye appeal of your space and can even create safety hazards, and now is the time to make sure your paths are ready to do you proud all summer long.
For Safe, Beautiful Gravel Walkways …
- Weeds and other unwanted plant life can sprout up through the gravel and cause tripping hazards, making walkways unsafe for young visitors. Inspect your paths regularly and pull up any weeds as soon as you see them.
- If you’re creating a new gravel walkway, put down a layer of quality landscaping fabric first. This will prevent unwanted vegetation from sprouting up through the gravel.
- If you have an existing gravel walkway where weeds are a consistent problem, consider re-installing it with a layer of landscaping fabric underneath.
- Rake your walkway regularly to remove debris and ensure a smooth, level walking surface.
- Over time, gravel material can be kicked off the path and scattered onto the neighboring grass, causing your walkway to appear messy. You can prevent this by installing edging material to create a barrier and keep gravel in its place.
- If potholes appear, especially after a hard rain, fill the entire sunken area with fresh gravel (don’t just “borrow” material from another area of the walkway).
For Kid-Ready Concrete Walkways and Sidewalks
- Sweep concrete walkways regularly to keep your space looking clean and orderly.
- Repair any large cracks in concrete or pavement as soon as you notice them, as these can become serious tripping hazards.
- Power-wash your walkways on a regular basis; if stains appear, clean them up immediately.
- Applying a sealer isn’t strictly necessary, but it will help keep your sidewalks looking clean and beautiful.
- If weeds begin to spring up in cracks or gaps, pull them immediately. If weeds continue to be a problem, look for an environmentally friendly and kid-safe weed-control solution.
Remember, your walkways and sidewalks are an important part of your play space. By maintaining them well, you’ll create a safe, attractive area that keeps families coming back all summer long.
Our playgrounds offer kids and families a secure, engaging space where they can enjoy fresh air while reaping the benefits of physical activity. Unfortunately, with all that activity comes the inevitable risk of injury. To ensure an enjoyable visit to our playgrounds for every child, every time, we can offer parents clear, easy-to-follow guidelines on the safe, appropriate use of our grounds and our equipment.
The Legal Angle
No one likes to think about the possibility of a lawsuit resulting from a child being injured on your playground. But legal realities are a fact of life, and if a suit should arise, having posted the appropriate safety signage in full view of visitors can help your case by showing the court you ‘ve taken steps to ensure a safe experience.
The Official Word
Both the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have issued recommendations regarding playground safety signage. ASTM’s recommendations are located in the Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use, and you can find the CPSC’s guidelines in the Public Playground Safety Handbook.
Types of Playground Safety Signage
Supervision Advisory: A simple sign reading “Adult supervision is recommended” reminds visitors that your playground is not intended for unsupervised play.
Age Range of Equipment Users: For a safe and enjoyable playground experience, it’s important that children use only equipment that is age-appropriate for them. Labeling your equipment with age ranges gives the parent clear guidance on whether a particular activity is safe for his or her child.
Hot Surface Warning: During our sweltering Texas summers, it’s possible for playground equipment to become so hot that it creates a burn hazard. A hot surface warning label advises the parent or caregiver to test the surfaces of slides, swings, and other equipment before allowing the child to play on them.
Strangulation Warning: Loose clothing, drawstrings, necklaces, straps, and other elements can present a strangulation risk if they get caught on equipment during play. Strangulation warning labels advise parents and caregivers to remove any and all strangulation hazards before allowing the child to play on the equipment.
Surfacing Warnings: Any equipment installed on a hard surface should carry a surfacing warning alerting parents to the risk of injuries from falls.
Where Signage Should Be Placed
Place all safety signs in locations where they are readily visible and where they can alert the viewer in time to take action if needed. They can be affixed to the equipment or posted on free-standing posts within the playground but outside of use zones.
Also, remember to keep trees, bushes and other plants trimmed so as not to obscure the visibility of your safety signs.
Playground safety is a team effort, and by presenting clear, easy-to-follow safety guidelines, we can help our communities enjoy a safe, engaging experience every time they visit.
With school out and summer now in full swing, kids will be heading to their local playgrounds for some fun in the outdoors. And while it’s wonderful to see children enjoy the carefree days of the summer season, we also have to remember to put safety first. Fortunately, taking a few simple steps can help ensure your playground offers a safe place to play all summer long.
Check Your Equipment
Your playground equipment will be under extra stress with the increased use that typically occurs during summer months. Give all surfaces and connections a thorough check to make sure they’re up to the task. Also, check your safety surfacing to make sure you offer adequate protection against injuries from falls.
Keep the H2O Flowing
It’s easy for kids to get dehydrated running around in the Texas heat, so make sure your water fountains are in good working condition.
Keep the Bugs at Bay
When temps go up, the bugs come out, placing kids at a higher risk for painful insect bites. Check the playground area regularly for fire ants and wasp nests, and deal with them promptly. Also, standing water can be a prime breeding ground for mosquitoes, so make sure the area has adequate drainage.
Offer Some Shade
Give parents and kids a shady place nearby where they get out of the sun and enjoy the breeze. If space is limited, consider a simple shade canopy.
Send a flyer to the parents in your community with some summer safety tips for families enjoying your playground. Remind them about the importance of things like sunscreen, appropriate footwear (i.e. no bare feet), hydration, and insect repellent.