Most children love going to the playground. They’re the place where we play and explore risk, socialise with others and create memories that we will treasure long into adult life — but what happens when the risk becomes all too much?

Lawn top dressing and play bark retailers, Compost Direct, have provided us with some insight into safety in the playground. We look specifically at the accident rates before offering tips to prevent injury and safeguard our children without limiting their play potential.

How do our British playgrounds look at the minute?

There hasn’t been one conclusive piece of research released surrounding British playground safety. However, some studies have taken place that do shine some light on the safety of our playgrounds.

Research has been conducted by Play England and it suggests that playing in a playground is less risky than taking part in sport. For example, rugby has the highest non-fatal accident rate per 100,000 hours of exposure, with roughly 280 incidents. Football and hockey are the next most dangerous, with approximately 130 and 90 incidents respectively. In comparison, public playgrounds have one of the lowest non-fatal accident rates at around 5 incidents per 100,000 hours of exposure.

When someone mentions a playground to you, you might automatically think of a public playground that was created by the council and was tried and tested. However, hotels, restaurants and public houses are creating playgrounds as part of their businesses too, and this is where many accidents are reported. The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Health and Safety Advisory Group suggested that these accidents were due to incorrect design and layout, poor inspection and maintenance, unsuitable clothing and lack of adult supervision amongst others.

Actions to take to keep our children safe

There are some regulations and suggestions that councils, local businesses and parents can adhere to in order to improved playground safety.

What can councils and local businesses do?

Of course, some accidents in the playground are unavoidable. Playground designers cannot be overly safety conscious when deciding how a playground should look or else the adventures and challenges that children enjoy in a play area will be eliminated. However, a well-designed playground will not raise any additional hazards for children and will encourage safe play.

A major thing that playground designers should keep in mind is that it should be accessible to all. Parents with pushchairs must be able to navigate around the park to watch their children, disabled people and children must be able to enjoy the area and emergency services must be able to reach the play zone in the case of an accident.

The resources used to create the surfaces of the playground should be tried and tested. Hard surfaces should be non-slip, especially in rain and adverse weather conditions as this is a common cause of accidents. Impact absorbing surfacing should be fitted around all apparatus to reduce injury level in the case of a fall. This could be in the form of play bark (bark chippings) or sand. Surfaces should be level too, with adequate opportunity for drainage to reduce risk of corrosion on any of the equipment.

There should also be lots of available seating for parents and guardians so that they can see their children at all times.

What can parents and guardians do?

A key thing that parents and guardians can do in the park to reduce the number of accidents is to supervise at all times.

One thing to keep an eye out for is older and younger children mixing together in the same area. This can lead to bullying or your child feeling uncomfortable when they are playing. In this situation, encourage your child to play on another piece of equipment and suggest to the appropriate authority that segregated areas could be beneficial. Keep an eye out for any litter too which may be harmful. For example, cigarette dumps, alcohol bottles or broken glass.

Another thing to do is, outside of the playground, remind your child of the rules of the road. Although playgrounds should not be placed next to a road, often children can wander off and put themselves in a dangerous situation. It’s understandable that parents cannot watch their children at all times and it is settling to know that your children are aware of the Green Cross Code if they come to a roadside.

Prevent any future accidents instead of simply removing your child from the park and not returning. Make sure that you report the problem to the appropriate authorities to avoid any accidents for other children. Ask your children about their experiences too after they have been playing; they might have come across something that you did not notice.