To provide a safe playground environment, there must be adequate supervision, properly maintained play equipment and grounds, and appropriate activities. Principals, building administrators, teachers, and playground aides must have a thorough understanding of why playground injuries/accidents occur, be able to recognize hazards, and be knowledgeable about appropriate activities for the available school playground space.
Playground injuries/accidents have many causes and safety hazards, including but not limited to the following:
- Ruts, bumps, or holes in the ground and on the fields
- Ruts, wide gaps, or bumps on blacktop play areas (hard play areas)
- Broken, worn, rusty, or protruding parts of play equipment
- Broken glass, nails, or other debris on the ground and in the soft play areas (safety surfacing under the play equipment) and on hard play areas (blacktops)
- Jumping, falling, slipping off, sitting on top of, or running into the play equipment/apparatus
- Inappropriate student behavior, e.g., pushing or throwing a ball towards a piece of play equipment/apparatus
- Insufficient amount of safety surfacing under play equipment (12 inches of engineered wood fiber or 8 inches of compacted engineered wood fiber is required under all play equipment and play equipment systems)
Playground aides must recognize the above-listed injury/accident causes and safety hazards and take action to correct them. Offering alternative activities or taking appropriate discipline measures are the most common solutions. Initiating high-interest activities that reduce inappropriate activities/behavior before they start are ideal.
Examples of possible problem situations or conditions are as follows:
- Landscaping—low hanging branches, cracked or broken surfaces, eroded edges and potholes, fences which create an attractive nuisance, and inadequate safety surfacing (engineered wood fiber under play equipment)
- Too many students on play equipment
- Tag/chase games near equipment or through the middle of another game
- The ball being thrown at the runner during kickball games
- Kicking or throwing balls against or toward the building
- Inappropriate rope activities, e.g., using the rope like a whip, tying the rope around self or someone else’s body, and tying the rope to a piece of equipment and using it as a swing
- Proximity of ball games to parking lots, streets, and buildings
- Loose gravel on blacktop
- Dodgeball, kicking, or striking games in high-density areas
- Inappropriate activities for recess play such as softball, football, wrestling, or tackling games
- Tackling (tripping) during soccer games
- Lack of weekly raking of safety surfacing (engineered wood fiber)
- Weeds growing around wooden borders of play equipment and in the safety surfacing itself (weeds should be pulled on a regular basis)
- Inappropriate-age children on play equipment systems (2–5 years old, 5–12 years old)
School principals are responsible for developing a method of training playground aides in the techniques of safe playground management. This may be accomplished by cooperative faculty planning in conjunction with the school physical education teacher. Playground supervision guidelines are provided below. These should be shared with elementary school playground aides, teachers, and building services staff at the beginning of each school year.
Playground equipment should be inspected daily for excessive wear, damage, and other potential safety hazards. The Daily Play Equipment Inspection Form (below) should be completed prior to use each day. It is important to ensure that there is sufficient engineered wood fiber to provide a safe surface for the play equipment. There should be 12 inches (uncompacted) or 8 inches (compacted) of engineered wood fiber covering the playground area. If additional engineered wood fiber is required, schools should submit a work order to Division of Maintenance.
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Schools interested in replacement of damaged playground equipment or installation of additional equipment, to better serve their students, should contact the PLAR/Contract Office of the Division of Maintenance. A list of playground equipment prohibited for installation at MCPS facilities, for safety and/or maintenance-related reasons, is linked below.
Examples of Recent Playground Projects
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