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Safe Carroll: Safe Kids Carroll County recommends playgrounds with soft surfaces

Each year, approximately 10 children die from injuries involving playground equipment, and more than 200,000 are treated in emergency rooms. Falls account for 80 percent of playground injuries; however, most playground fatalities are caused by strangulation and occur in a family's yard, not on public property.

National Playground Safety Week, April 21 to 25, will celebrate the 32nd anniversary of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's Handbook for Public Playground Safety, providing guidelines for playground surfacing and age-appropriate labeling of equipment.

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Nothing can take the place of active supervision, but we do need to make sure our kids are playing in safe environments in the first place. Playground equipment should be labeled with a minimum age, and it should be surrounded by a protective surface.

Grass and soil are not good playground surfaces. The ground should be covered 12 inches deep with shredded rubber, hardwood fiber mulch or fine sand, extending at least six feet in all directions around the equipment. It won't prevent falls, but it can prevent injuries or reduce their severity.

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Even nonfatal injuries from playground falls can be very serious. A child who falls 10 feet is at risk of spinal cord injury, paralysis and death, and a child who falls about 5 feet is four times as likely to be injured as a child who falls from a lower height.

Safe Kids Carroll County also reminds parents and caregivers to:

  • Make sure playground equipment is inspected frequently and kept in good repair.
  • Remove hood and neck drawstrings from children's clothing and outerwear, and do not allow kids to wear helmets, necklaces, purses or scarves on the playground.
  • Don't allow your kids to engage in, or play near, any pushing, shoving or crowding around playground equipment.
  • Keep toddlers under age 5 in a separate play area, fenced off from equipment designed for bigger kids.

The CPSC handbook is available at

or 800-638-2772. For more information about playground safety, call 410-876-4448.

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