Filed Under:Agent Broker, Personal Lines Business

Backyard danger! Swings, slides & other play things pose risk, safety concerns

From 2009-2014, 66 percent of playground equipment accidents occurred at home.

The No. 1 cause of fatal playground incidents? Hanging or asphyxiation. (Photo: Shutterstock)
The No. 1 cause of fatal playground incidents? Hanging or asphyxiation. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Now that springtime is here, playground season is in full swing.

Are the kids in the backyard and at the local playground safe?

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has found that far too often, fun and games on the backyard play set or at the community playground can lead to injuries — and even death.

In a new playground equipment report issued by CPSC, it found that from 2009 to 2014, nearly 1.5 million injuries associated with playground equipment were treated nationally in emergency departments.

Homeowner liability


If your insurance clients have a backyard swing set or other play equipment, the Insurance Information Institute recommends homeowner policyholders consider increasing liability coverage through an umbrella policy in case someone is injured while playing on an insured's property. Standard homeowners' policies usually provide $100,000 to $300,000 worth of liability coverage.

Related: Playground risk: Not all fun and games

Most insurance companies offer a personal catastrophe liability (PCL) policy that adds an extra $1 to $5 million to homeowners' liability limits for about $200 more per year. 

It’s not unusual to hear of $1-million, $2-million, and even $10-million liability judgments against individuals. If someone is injured in a client's backyard, they could be hit with such a judgment. Accidents and injuries aren't predictable, and once a client is the target of a liability lawsuit, it's too late to get coverage.

In order to encourage a fun and safe summer, following is an overview of where play equipment injuries happen, data about the types of injuries sustained and a helpful list of some playground safety recommendations to share with insureds:

colorful playground equipment

Homes and restaurants are the most frequent locations for playground equipment incidents. (Photo: Shutterstock

Where playground injuries happen


Playground injuries take place in various locations. The top four places for play equipment injuries are:

1. Home (66 percent).

2. Restaurant (26 percent).

3. Park (3 percent).

4. School (2 percent).

Related: 15 preventable homeowners' insurance claims and how to avoid them

boy injured on a playground

From 2009 to 2014, CPSC staff completed investigations of 34 deaths associated with playground equipment. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Playground fatalities


The No. 1 cause of fatal playground incidents? Hanging or asphyxiation.

From 2009 to 2014, CPSC staff completed investigations of 34 deaths associated with playground equipment. Of the 34 investigated deaths, 19 involved hangings and other asphyxiations. Five of the 19 hangings and asphyxiations occurred on slides, and another five occurred on swings, including two that occurred on a rope swing.

Related: 20 sports that cause the most injuries

Four deaths involved composite play structures, and two occurred during while using zip lines.

Of the 19 deaths involving hangings and other asphyxiations, 12 involved a second product. In three cases the second product was a jump rope, in four other cases the second product was a rope, and in two cases the second product was clothing with a drawstring.

Neck & head injuries


The next most common type of investigated death involved neck and head injuries. Of the 34 investigated deaths, eight involved head and neck injuries. Three of the head and neck deaths were on swings, and two others involved composite play structures.

There were two investigated deaths related to drowning. In both cases, the child fell or slid down a non-pool slide into a swimming pool.

Related: Students and concussion risks

3 kids playing on rope net

Monkey bars and swings account for the majority of the total play equipment injuries. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Play equipment causing injuries


Monkey bars and swings account for the majority of the total play equipment injuries resulting in emergency department-treated injuries, although slides account for one-fifth of the injuries.

Here's the breakdown of playground equipment linked to the most injuries, according the the CPS::

1. Monkey bars or playground gyms (34 percent).

2. Swings or swing sets (25 percent).

3. Slides or sliding boards (21 percent).

4. Other playground equipment (9 percent).

5. Not specified (9 percent).

6. Seesaws or teeter totters (2 percent).

See also: Time for a cookout! Grilling safety & homeowners insurance basics

Kids on a backyard seesaw

The two most commonly injured body parts from playground accidents are the arm and head. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Injuries from playground equipment


The two most common reported emergency department diagnoses from playground accidents are fractures and contusions/abrasions, which together account for 51 percent of the incidents. Fractures alone account for more than one-third of the emergency department-treated injuries. Here's the breakdown of reported injuries:

1. Fractures (34 percent).

2. Contusions and abrasions (17 percent).

3. Lacerations (15 percent).

4. Strains and sprains (13 percent).

5. Internal organ injuries (9 percent).

6. Other/not stated (6 percent).

7. Concussions (2 percent).

8. Dislocation (1 percent).

9. Dental injuries (1 percent).

10. Hematomas (1 percent).

Related: Summer can be the riskiest time of year

The two most commonly injured body parts are the arm and head, which together accounted for 59 percent of all injuries. The leg and face were  injured 31 percent of the time. 

1. Arm (41 percent).

2. Head (18 percent).

3. Leg (16 percent).

4. Face (15 percent).

boy on playground slide

To avoid burns, don't let kids play on slides/surfaces that are burning hot. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Playground safety tips

  • Always supervise kids and make sure kids use playground equipment appropriate for their age.
  • Never attach ropes, jump ropes, pet leashes or strings to playground equipment; children can strangle on these.
  • Make sure children's clothing does not have any drawstrings as they can catch on slides and other equipment.
  • Make sure surfaces around playgrounds have 9-12 inches of wood chips, mulch, sand, pea gravel, or mats made of safety-tested rubber.
  • Check that protective surfacing extends at least 6 feet in all directions from play equipment. For swings, be sure surfacing extends, in back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar. Look out for tripping hazards, like exposed concrete footings, tree stumps, and rocks.
  • Don't let kids play on slides/surfaces that are burning hot. The weather does not have be 100 degrees in order for equipment to heat up and cause burns. If it feels hot to your hand, it may be too hot for a child's bare skin!

See also: Unusual risks of pool ownership

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