why the latest playground craze is a serious danger

Child’s play involves risks and challenges, a vital part of development. Failing, falling and getting back up are crucial life lessons. But children also need to be protected from serious and permanent injury.

As the latest evolution of the thrilling game, many giant slides have been introduced across Australia. However, several of them caused serious injuries in the weeks following their installation.

The most recent giant slide causing serious injury was opened by the Shoalhaven Council in New South Wales in January. A four-year-old girl has broken both legs after riding down the slide in tandem with her father.

His mom took Facebook seeking the experience of the local community. In 24 hours, there were 750 comments, over 150 shares and over 30 serious injuries reported, including broken bones and facial injuries.

Such preventable injuries can cause lifelong hardship for some and cost Australians millions of dollars, not only in wasted playground development, but also in injury cost and any related litigation. The destiny of the giant slide Boongaree Nature Play Park is yet to be determined.

More than “raw and dry” wounds

In 2016, an Adelaide the giant slide complex has been closed just months after opening, after a series of serious injuries such as broken bones and knee dislocations were reported.

The two giant slides would have cost 600,000 Australian dollars to build, in a playground upgrade costs $3.55 million. It then cost another $340,000 to dismantle the dangerous slides.

In 2018, a Sydney playground was closed after ‘horrific’ injuries, including broken legs, were reported by parents and children using the new ‘giant slide’. The Stockland playground would have cost $2.3 million to build. This giant slide has also been closed, dismantled and removed.

The frequency and severity of these incidents is greater than we would expect from “rough and tumbling” type play when visiting the local playground.



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What’s wrong with these slides?

Longer tube slides allow users to move faster through the inner tube. A person’s speed depends on their height, weight, and the slipperiness of their clothing (something like nylon leggings being more slippery than denim jeans, for example). The slipperiness of the slide may also change with use over time.

Injuries have occurred on these giant slides, as users enter the twists and turns of the slide at high speed and sometimes try to “braking” with their feet to slow down. For each child, it is difficult to determine the speed of each descent, but once started, it can be very difficult to control.

Attempting to brake during a descent can load ankles and knees with significant energy that causes bones to break. Trying to brake barefoot versus a sneaker can also affect the likelihood of a fracture. If the user is not able to slow down, he can come out of the end at high speed.

Injury surveillance data from the United States shows that riding in tandem (sitting on one person’s lap on the toboggan) is associated with up to 50 times greater risk of lower limb injury for the child, compared to riding alone .

Paradoxically, many parents probably think riding together is safer. the new giant slide at Boongaree Park had no signage to warn parents of this risk.

How do we know playground equipment is safe?

The flow Australian Playground Standards are informed by 50 years of experience in the design and use of play equipment, and are constantly updated. The standards examine factors such as the design, installation, maintenance and operation of playgrounds. They aim to optimize the safety of playgrounds and minimize the risks associated with them. They are also meant to eliminate known hazards such as things that could cause strangulation.



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Although public playgrounds in Australia are generally certified to Australian standards, this is not required by law. So not all will be certified to the most recent published standard, tested with a risk assessment before installation, or checked regularly for wear and tear that could cause injury.

To comply with the Playground Standard, certified playgrounds must be provided with a nameplate showing the name and address of the manufacturer or authorized representative, information to identify the equipment, the year of manufacture of the playground and according to which standard. However, information regarding updates or repairs, or inspection schedules are not made public by any board.

Although the standards require testing for things like head and neck entrapment and structural integrity, they do not require slides to be tested for normal use to see how children might behave on the playground. ‘equipment.

Similar to vehicle safety testprototypes of products such as slides should be tested on a range of user sizes and clothing types, and if risks of serious injury are identified, the design may be modified before being installed.

There have been calls to leave giant slides unchanged in children’s playgrounds (regardless of injuries) to develop children’s risk management skills.

However, there is a difference between ‘risk’ – where children can recognize and assess a challenge and decide on a course of action – and ‘danger’, which is a source of harm that cannot be assessed by children (or in this case, even adults) and has no learning benefits.

We agree that children need to learn about risks, challenges, successes and failures, and sometimes injuries can occur. However, serious injury can be avoided when each part of the system is carefully examined and modified accordingly.

Giant slides overcharge children (and their parents or guardians) too much through no fault of their own. These dangerous items of playground equipment must be removed or modified to ensure that a simple trip down the slide does not result in broken legs.



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Harold B. McConnell