INDIANAPOLIS -- Hazards on the playground could put a child’s safety at risk without a parent even noticing the danger.
Experts say many parents sit on a bench, get on their phone, and think their children will be OK.
“They think their kids should do anything and everything without supervision and that everything’s going to be nice and safe for them,” said Dawn Daniels, injury prevention specialist at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health.
Daniels said the hospital sees a lot of children breaking bones on playgrounds.
“A lot of broken arms, about 80% of the fractures that come in are broken arms,” said Daniels. “Kids under five are more susceptible because they’re not able to support their body weight on that. But yet they’re trying to play on the six-foot monkey bars.”
More than 21,000 children suffer playground-related brain injuries every year.
Chris Hanson of Indiana based Sonam Technologies developed a device that measures playground falls and whether the surface below does enough to cushion the fall.
The device simulates the head of a 6-year-old child.
Hanson joined Call 6 Investigates at Holliday Park, a popular playground in Indianapolis.
He dropped the device from five feet, nine feet, and nearly twelve feet.
Not surprisingly, the higher the surface you fall from, the more likely you are to suffer a brain injury.
A child falling from a twelve-foot platform could cause a serious injury, Hanson said, especially if the surface below is not adequate cushioned.
Hanson said Holliday Park’s mulch surfaces passed all of his fall tests.
“God forbid, if a child does fall, they're going to land into something that will absorb the impact of that fall,” said Hanson. “You can't always prevent the fall always, but what you can do is prevent the serious injury."
Hanson did point out some areas of the playground with little mulch at all.
“It’s kind of an indication it’s not being maintained properly,” said Hanson.
Certified playground inspector Bob Lipford joined Call 6 Investigates at Holliday Park as well.
Lipford works with schools and neighborhoods, and quickly pointed out broken equipment, including something that was not anchored to the ground.
“It becomes a missile to run into someone,” said Lipford. “It is dangerous.”
Call 6 Investigates reported the broken equipment to Indy Parks, which operates Holliday Park.
When Call 6 Investigates returned more than a week later, the equipment was repaired, however another one was broken nearby.
Call 6 Investigates again reported the broken piece to Indy Parks.
As a parent, you too can check for broken pieces, gaps, and other safety concerns and report them to the organization that runs the playground.
“You’re looking for protrusions, bolts that are sticking out too far,” said Lipford. “On the climbing walls, you get the blocks that will crack.”
Parent Michael Heavilon brings his three children to the playground to have fun, but safety is always on his mind.
"If something does happen, that way I am close by to hopefully prevent it," said Heavilon, "The higher the playground equipment, the more you worry about falls. especially if there's not enough material down below it's something to be concerned of."
Indy Parks encourages you to be their eyes and ears and report broken equipment.
Playgrounds are inspected once a month or more, according to Indy Parks spokesperson Ronetta Spalding.
Indy Parks partners with the Department of Public Works, which handles park maintenance for 128 playgrounds.
During the busy summer months, the city hires additional park inspectors.
“During inspections, playground equipment is evaluated for safety surface trash, graffiti, loose nuts and bolts, slide safety, cleanliness, sharp objects and more,” said Spalding. “Anything requiring repairs could be the result of an inspection report, customer and staff feedback, something that is noticed during other park cleanups, and other means.”
All park staff do inspections and reports on their facilities, and each item found gets a number 1=Good, 2=Needs Repair, and 3=Emergency Attention.
You can reach Indy Parks customer service at 317-327-PARK or email IndyParksCS@indy.gov