Playground equipment under surveillance after series of injuries
In August, a three-year-old broke her leg descending a tube slide at Boongaree Nature Play Park in Berry after a four-year-old girl broke both legs on the slide in April.
A giant waterslide in Western Sydney was closed in 2018 less than a month after opening following incidents in which children and adults suffered injuries including broken bones, lacerations and burns.
“The giant slide at Hilltop Park in Schofields was installed by the developer of the enclosure,” said a spokeswoman for Blacktown City Council. “They removed it and replaced it with a smaller slide.”
Still, large slides remain popular playground features in Sydney’s suburbs.
Eager co-wrote a report in The conversation highlighting a series of injuries suffered by children when trying to slow their descent down giant slides set up in playgrounds around NSW.
“These dangerous items of playground equipment should be removed or modified to ensure that a simple trip down the slide does not result in broken legs,” the report states.
Eager said large slides technically meet safety standards for children’s playgrounds, but should be subject to stricter rules.
“These giant slides are actually ride-like adventure slides,” he said.
Lisa Sharwood, an injury epidemiologist at the University of Sydney, said minor injuries on playgrounds are common, but serious injuries occur “particularly when standards are not met or playgrounds are maintained to current standards.
For large slides, children needed to be able to slow down and brake safely to reduce the risk of injury.
But she said safety standards for playground equipment “particularly at the extremes of certain parameters, do not guarantee – in checkbox form – sufficient safety for all types of customers, without an assessment of the correctly carried out risks”.
The head of trauma at Westmead Children’s Hospital, Dr Soundappan Soundappan, said falls on the playground were the most common type of injury he treated. Other injuries were caused by children being hit, collisions, or clothing getting caught in play equipment.
The injuries were caused by faulty equipment, lack of supervision or children lacking physical skills, Soundappan said.
Data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows there were 6,115 falls involving playground equipment that required hospitalization in 2019-20. Falls from playground equipment were the most likely cause of injuries requiring a hospital visit for children aged 5 to 14.
A study published in 2017 found that the majority of playground equipment injuries in New South Wales were suffered by children using trampolines (34%) and climbing machines (28%).
“Children’s hospitalization rates for injuries from playground falls remain high despite [the] implementation of Australia’s National Playground Safety Standards,” the study states.
Previous research has shown that injuries from falls on playgrounds are more common in children between the ages of five and nine, typically resulting in fractures of the elbow and forearms, shoulder and upper arm. .
Play Australia executive director Barb Champion said playground injuries are commonly caused by falls “in many cases due to children’s inability to manage themselves in outdoor environments”.
Champion said serious injuries were rare, but young children should be watched. “Anecdotally, we know that many very young children are unsupervised by their caregivers, usually engrossed in their cellphones,” she said.
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