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Playground Safety

Take the Playground Safety YES Test: Checklist

​Safe playgrounds help reduce the risk of injury to children. The YES test is a quick and easy way to check how safe an outdoor playground is. This YES test helps you to check that the play area, the playground surfacing, and the equipment are all ready for safe play. You'll need a measuring tape and a dime.

Take the YES test by reviewing the list of items below. If you can't answer YES to every item, the playground may need repairs or upgrades.

The Play Area
  • There are no trip hazards in the play area, like tree stumps, rocks, or exposed concrete footings.
  • There are no dangerous objects in the play area, like litter, broken glass, or needles.
The Equipment
  • There are no open gaps that could catch loose clothing that could strangle a child. For example, s-hooks - often used to connect swing seats to chains - should only allow a dime to pass through the gaps.
  • No opening is greater than 8.9 cm (3.5 inches) or less than 22.5 cm (9 inches). Larger or smaller spaces are entrapment hazards because they allow a child’s body to go through but trap the head, like improperly adjusted guard rails or ladder rungs.
  • ​There are no ropes of any kind tied to equipment. Ropes can cause strangulation.
  • Raised surfaces like platforms and ramps higher than 50.8 cm (20 inches) have handrails, barriers, and/or railings to prevent falls.
  • There are no sharp edges or points on the equipment that could cut or scrape, like sharp bolt ends.
  • The equipment is in good working order, doesn't have broken or missing parts, and is well anchored to the ground.
The Surfacing Under and Around Equipment

Protective surfacing is a soft surface that helps to cushion falls. Grass and dirt are NOT protective surfaces.

  • Loose fill surfacing (e.g., pea gravel, sand, rubber crumb) OR rubber surfacing is used under and around all pieces of equipment.
  • If loose fill surfacing is used, it’s at least 20.3–30.5 cm (8​–12 inches) deep, 15 cm (6 inches) deep for preschool equipment,​ and 30 cm (12 inches) deep for full sized equipment. There is one exception to this rule: if rubber crumb is used, it’s at least 15.2 cm (5 inches) deep.
How did the playground do?
  • ​I answered "Yes" to all the items in the list. The playground has passed the YES Test. Do the YES Test at least once a month.
  • I couldn't answer "Yes" to all the items in the list. The playground may not be safe.

Here are possible next steps:

  • If you own or operate the playground, make a step-by-step plan to increase safety. You may need to replace equipment, improve protective surfacing, or increase supervision. Get professional help if you need it.
  • If you don't own or operate the playground, share your concerns with its owner or operator. For example, if the playground is in a com​​munity park, contact the municipality.​

Promoting Playground Safety

As a parent or caregiver, you can use the tips below to help promote playground safety:

  • Children younger than 5 years should have active, constant adult supervision. Children 5 to 9 years old should have a responsible older person nearby watching to see that they’re playing safely on the equipment.
  • Encourage children to use playground equipment that fits their age and stage of development. Preschool-aged children and elementary school-age children need different types of equipment.
  • Take off bicycle helmets. Children who wear helmets on playgrounds are at risk of strangulation if their head gets caught in a narrow opening or if the helmet straps catch on something.
  • Take off scarves and any clothing with drawstrings or other loose strings. Scarves, strings, and loose clothing put your child at risk of strangling. Wear neck warmers instead of scarves.
  • Teach children to follow playground safety rules.

Current as of: February 8, 2016

Author: Provincial Injury Prevention Program, Alberta Health Services