The evenings are becoming longer, and adults and children are beginning to take advantage of the extra hours during the day to relax and play. Unfortunately for some, however, the joys of summer and spring have come to an abrupt end. In a recent tragic case in Utah, a four-year-old girl was found strangled when she became caught in the ropes of her backyard swing set. Only a few moments earlier, neighbors and her father witnessed her happily playing. This story sadly shows how quickly a turn for the worse can occur in an everyday environment.
Public playgrounds and schools abide by regulations to help prevent accidents and injuries among small children, and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) implemented some of these guidelines as they relate to asphalt and playground equipment to protect those in public areas. But, keeping our backyards safe is not up to anyone except us; there are no guidelines other than common sense. As a result, even with our best intentions, private yards can become a breeding ground for accidents, particularly among smaller children who are not properly supervised.
From jumping castles at a birthday party, to playing on swings, to simply running in the backyard, accidents at home occur more often than not. While the accident above may have been a rare happening, it is a harsh reminder that no matter how short of a time our child is out of our view, that time frame may be just the exact amount of time to claim the life of a small one, or cause serious injury.
Children aged four to ten are at high risk for accidents at a playground and at home. When you have active little ones in the family, here are some guidelines to prevent an accident like the above tragedy from happening to you.
- Make sure someone is tasked as the designated supervisor, and do not assume that all adults are keeping an eye on all children. Be active and walk around, check on the children, and be involved.
- The CPSC mandated the absence of drawstrings in children’s clothing due to strangulation. Check clothing for any loose strings, drawstrings, or ties. Remember that many children wear hand-me-downs or could grab a jacket from a nearby chair.
- Ensure that age-appropriate equipment is used. If the jumping castle says “no one under the age of 3” it makes sense not to put your toddler in the jumping castle with your baby.
- Ensure all equipment is located on a grassy area, or on an area that will absorb the impact of any falls.
- Check play equipment regularly to ensure that there are no missing or broken parts, split boards, or knotted ropes.
- Never put the supervision task in the hands of someone who is not old enough to supervise. We all know that grade-school children and teens are easily distracted. It takes one second to turn away, and have tragedy occur.
- Check the yard for hoses, sprinkler heads, and toys that are hidden in grassy areas.
If your child has been injured while playing on a swing set or other backyard play equipment, there may be a case for a defective product, or premises liability if the accident occurred at the home of another child. Particularly when dealing with friends and relatives, the situation could become stressful and alienating. Seeking the advice of a law firm whose practice includes personal injury cases is your best bet.
Prepare your backyard and play areas for the coming warmer weather to prevent accidents and injuries among your children and their friends.