National Playground Safety Week is a time to focus on our students outdoor play environments. It is a time to recommit to use good judgment when playing, and it is a time for gratitude for all the adults who work tirelessly on supervising and maintaining our playgrounds.
Over the past few years DoDEA has taken several steps to improve our school playgrounds in an effort to keep our children safe. New surfacing material has been installed and new equipment has been purchased. The playgrounds are routinely inspected by school administrators and playground monitors have been reminded on proper techniques for monitoring students at play. As a result of these efforts, we have been successful in significantly reducing the number of injuries on our playgrounds. However, we cannot become complacent and need to remain vigilant. This week is the ideal time to review playground policies and procedures to identify changes to improve student safety.
A review of playground injuries reveals most are associated with climbing equipment, slides and swings. Students often fall or jump from heights and land wrong which results in injuries. Sometimes students are unaware of their surroundings and either strike a structure or get struck by a moving piece of equipment. It is not uncommon for a student to try to use a piece of equipment that they are not physically able to navigate safely, such as overhead ladders that are too high or have bars spaced outside a student's normal reach.
Playground monitors should continue to be aware of these issues and maintain constant vigilance on activities identified as higher risk. Quick action to address inappropriate behavior is necessary to prevent injuries and teach students the proper etiquette for safe play. If a student's physical stature poses a problem, i.e. a 5 year old playing on an overhead ladder more suited for a 12 year old and vice versa, playground monitors should recognize this fact and direct the student to equipment that is more appropriate.
School administrators must continue with a daily inspection to identify broken equipment or hazards requiring corrective action. A principal's commitment to safety on the playgrounds sets the standard for the rest of the staff to follow. Active involvement and prompt action to address issues promotes a culture of safety, which signifies the care and concern we provide to our students.