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Child Safety in Massachusetts Playgrounds

Can we make Massachusetts playgrounds safer for children? 2,973 children were injured on Massachusetts playgrounds in 2009. Nationally, the number was over 70,000 per year in the years 2001-2008, and 67% was from falls or playground equipment failure. According to the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS), there are ways to make playgrounds safer. In a case in Melrose, where we represented the parents of a two year old who fell from a playground ladder and broke his leg, the cause of the fall was determined to be poorly maintained ladder rungs – the rungs were steady until the top rung — which rotated, causing our client to fall and break his leg on the hard ground. Further, our expert witness determined that there was insufficient bark mulch, or padding, on the landing.

A key factor is failure to maintain playground equipment, especially the simplest maintenance of all, putting proper bark mulch below the playground equipment; and replacing the mulch when it wears thin. According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 40% of the child injuries in playgrounds are as a result of negligent supervision. The Massachusetts DPH provides a playground safety list which provides a host of information and resources, some of which are quite basic, but not often followed: have 12 inches of bark mulch or other impact absorbing base and remove visual barriers so that parents and care providers can see the children. There is also a federal Consumer Product Safety Commission paper on playground safety.