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OHS in the School Playground

Whether you are a teacher, principal or other official in a school district you have to focus on the safety of your students each day they are in your care.

Safety in Schools is a PriorityThe playground is a place where there are a number of hazards and where hundreds of thousands of children around the world are injured every year. Here’s a look at common injuries and what you can do to help reduce them:

Playground Equipment

The most common way children are injured on playground equipment is by falling.
There are a couple of reasons a fall could happen. One obvious possibility is that there is a problem with the equipment. Always make sure the playground equipment is in good shape before letting children play on it.

In the vast number of schools, the ‘groundsman’, ‘janitor’, or an allocated grounds safety person often checks the school equipment and runs an experienced eye over the playground before school each day. If for some reason the person who performs this task has missed some hazard, be quick to report it to them.

Yes, it is possible that this person could become a little ‘antsy’ (and I’ve heard a few stories!) at you drawing their attention to the situation, but think upon it as an exercise on communicating with style! (sorry, I couldn’t put it any other positive way!) After all, it’s better that something is done about the hazard before someone gets hurt. Imagine the problems for that other staff member (not to mention the school) when it’s found they didn’t perform their job properly and it led to an incident.

Each form class teacher should be notified to tell their students to keep away from that particular piece of equipment or area. And steps to rectify the hazard should be taken as soon as possible. In the meantime, the equipment could either be put away, or made inoperable, ie. a swing could be chained and padlocked to the side of the swing bars to stop it from being used.

Another reason children may fall from playground equipment is that they are mis-using it. If this is the case, a little instruction could go a long way to avoiding injuries.

The surface beneath playground equipment should be considered too. If you have a hard and unforgiving surface, there is more chance that a child will be injured when falling. Consider a far softer surface such as sand.

Another common problem with playground equipment is children being cut or scraped. Again ensure the equipment is regularly inspected to see that all parts are in good working condition and look for any rust or areas where the metal may soon start breaking. For wood playground equipment, have it regularly checked for areas where the wood is splitting or cracking, as this is a threat of splinters.

No matter what type of playground equipment is being used at your campus, you should regularly have someone check over the set-up to make sure all the equipment is secure and the supports are stable. Keep records of these inspections and add a note to your diary when to organise the next one.

Shade

While everyone thinks it’s great for kids to get out in the fresh air and sunshine to play, we need to be aware of the impact that sunshine has on the children. Sun can be intense, and children can become sunburned in the shortest time, and ill from the heat without warning – being so focused on playing they ignore the warning signs (a fuzzy head, thirst or stomach cramps). It is best to make sure that playground areas are shaded and that children have access to water – either through a cooler nearby or by suggesting they keep their water bottles handy.

Of course, follow the Slip, Slop, Slap guidelines as well. There are a good number of schools who make sunscreen readily available to the students, and most school rules dictate that a child must wear a hat or sun protection when outside.

Another important reason for shading the playground is that the equipment itself can become hot and burn the children playing on it. Consider how hot the sun can make a metal slide or other pieces of equipment.

Falling when running

Corridors, concrete paths and walkways are often places where children – against the rules – still continue to run.

Having signs ups ‘Walk’ rather than ‘Don’t Run’ are much more effective, as we all know about the mind being unable to process a negative. ie. ‘don’t run’ becomes to the child ‘run’. So offer instead the simple direction ‘walk’.

Enforce the same message when a child is running using the simple instruction “Walk!” or “Walk in the corridor” rather than “Don’t run in the corridor!”.

About the Author

Safety Concepts is an online resource providing up to date insights and covering issues in the field of Workplace Safety.

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