A survey by the Cedar Falls-based National Program for Playground Safety finds Iowa’s play areas for kids rank below the national average — and haven’t improved since the last screening. Project coordinator Heather Olsen says Iowa’s playgrounds were graded a “C-minus” this year and got the same grade in 2000. Olsen says there’s room for improvement in several areas. Olsen says adults need to supervise kids whenever they’re on the playground. Also, kids should be playing on age-appropriate equipment, separated for ages two-to-five and for five-to-12. Nationwide, playgrounds received a grade of “C-plus” for safety, a slight improvement from the “C” grade posted in 2000. She says 27 states saw improvements in their grades this time. Olsen says one key element of playground safety is the surface of the playground itself. Since 80-percent of injuries are the result of a fall, she says adequate cushioning is critical. Olsen says we’re doing a great job in using the appropriate playground surfacing materials like wood chips, sand, shredded rubber and poured-in-place rubber, but the loose-fill materials are -not- being maintained to the appropriate depth over time. She says the people who maintain playgrounds need to be watchful of a few other important areas. There should be no rust on the equipment, no broken parts and no places where a child’s head could get trapped. Every year, more than 200-thousand kids nationwide visit emergency rooms for playground injuries. Three out of four non-fatal playground injuries happen on public playgrounds, with most occurring at schools or childcare centers. For more information, surf to “www.playgroundsafety.org”.
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