Swings, slides and similar - Safety for garden play equipment
Munich. The kids have been grizzling for ages and now, finally, you plan to install a swing, slide, seesaw or climbing frame in your garden. Garden play equipment is available from special playground equipment manufacturers, but increasingly also from DIY markets. Of course, the safety of this play equipment plays a major role. Important is solid workmanship and correct installation in your garden.
TÜV Product Service provides helpful tips as to what must be observed when purchasing or installing swings, seesaws, slides and climbing frames:
German regulations require that all commercially sold play equipment must be manufactured in line with the applicable safety standards. The equipment is identified, for example, with the blue TÜV Octagon, the GS mark of TÜV Product Service, TÜV SÜD Group, or the CE marking.
Standard play equipment requires more maintenance
The durability of swings or climbing frames also depends on the materials used and their weather resistance. Play equipment with frames of highly durable woods such as oak or redwood is more expensive and less common at DIY markets. Discounters mostly offer standard equipment made of metal or so-called pressure-treated pine, which requires more maintenance.
Before purchasing their selection, parents should feel free to thoroughly inspect the equipment and consider carefully whether the equipment suits their purposes. Solid material and good stability should rate more highly than nice bright colours. Other important factors are:
· The equipment should be free from sharp edges or sharp corners
· Swing frames should be large to provide more stability
· Swing seats should be made of lightweight material, to avoid injuries if the seat hits a child on the head.
· The equipment should be free from places or gaps where children may trap their heads or fingers.
Digging deep is recommended
Once the equipment is purchased it has to be installed. The operating instructions will inform you how to best anchor the play equipment. Generally, it is recommended to drive the wooden poles of a swing approximately 60 cm deep into the ground. If you use a foundation, the poles should project from under the concrete. This prevents moisture accumulation which makes the pole decay faster. In upper and top soil layers in particular, wooden parts rot more rapidly because the soil contains many micro-organisms. Using metal sleeves to prevent direct contact between the wooden frame and the soil might be sensible.
Clearance all around
Of course, enough clearance must be allowed for the area around swings, slides and other play equipment. Clearance with a radius of at least 1.5 m should, for example, be allowed for around small climbing frames with a height of approx. 1 m. Also important: never install play equipment next to bushes and hedges, to prevent serious injuries caused by children falling into them.
A normal lawn supplies sufficient cushioning from falls from play equipment with a height of up to 1.5 meters. If your play equipment is higher you should pile sand at the base -- cheaper than special fall-protection mats, but serving the same purpose.
Up and ready - unfortunately not the case with play equipment. Parents should regularly check climbing frames, ropes etc. for cracks and other damage. Above all, lateral cracks in the swing frame in which water can accumulate may cause wood to rot. Additionally, once a year, you should dig down to a depth of 20 cm around all poles and check them for damage.
Dangerous traps: cords on jackets and safety helmets
Irrespective of whether kids play on play equipment in gardens or at the playground, parents should always ensure that their little ones do not wear safety helmets when climbing on play equipment. Safety helmets increase the head circumference compared to the rest of the body. Children may thus easily trap their heads during climbing and be strangled by the chin strap. Another danger is cords on children's jackets. They may also get caught while playing and cause accidents. Many manufacturers have therefore already stopped using such cords on childrens jackets.