Hot playground equipment needs a cool down

Kutska Responds 10-12-10 to The Kansas City Star, Newsroom, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108 Article

Hot playground equipment needs a cool down

As Chair of the ASTM Subcommittee responsible for performance requirements for public play equipment intended for public use, I can report that our group is currently balloting the wording for a consumer warning for hot surfaces in public playground environments. Our Committee’s research indicates that there have been very few reported burn injuries to children on public play equipment yet we all appreciate the potential for these injuries in public places in general. The issue is not limited to metal play equipment. Even plastic play components can create the same problem for children, especially to toddlers under age 3 whose skin is most susceptible to these types of injuries. Within the last two years there have also been reported burn injuries to this user group due to hot rubber safety surfacing.
Metal play equipment has been around since the very beginning of the manufacturer of play components. This is nothing new and should not be a surprise to parents if they only reflect back on their own personal experiences as a child. Think back to a trip to the beach on a hot summer day. We kicked off our shoes and made a beeline for the water without even thinking. Within seconds the pain became excruciating. That happened to me as my feet began to scream HOT! What did I or anyone else who had the same experience do? We may have stopped and screamed out loud for help since we had no idea or experience to intuitively tell us what to do. As adults or even adolescents we knew from our life’s experiences that we must find shade or get to the water for relief.
Unfortunately our youngest children are most at risk and there is nothing we can do to protect them against every possible scenario. Parental supervision and guidance is truly the real answer to this problem. When it is sunny and hot, even walkways and concrete sidewalks become too hot for these youngsters. Are we to expect to sign these areas as well? Are we to coat them with a more user friendly protective surface? Even these kinds of surfaces can become a solar mass capable of reaching critical temperatures when the outside temperature is very comfortable. There are far too many variables to find a simple answer to these concerns.
I can assure you we will soon have a warning sign/label to explain the potential for injury but nothing will do more for eliminating these injuries in the future than educating the general public about the injury potential for our children when we do not dress them appropriately or supervise their actions as responsible parents or guardians. The media can do a lot to help inform the general public of the potential for injury to their children. This becomes another classic example of people taking responsibility for their own actions. We can never totally protect one from each and every possible risk found in the outdoor environment. Common sense must prevail.
KEN KUTSKA, Executive Director
International Playground Safety Institute, LLC

The Watchdog | Hot playground equipment needs a cool down

The problem Heat can hurt. Just ask Carolyn Kisler of Kansas City, North, who took her 14-month-old son to Penguin Park on Sept. 13.
“He climbed onto a metal merry-go-round and immediately started screaming,” she said. “He ended up with a second-degree burn on his left leg.”
Kisler says she asked the parks department to move the equipment into the shade or paint it with sun-reflective paint.
Her doctor told her about a Consumer Reports article last July that said temperatures can rise to 140 degrees on playground equipment surfaces and that equipment became quite hot in the sun even when the temperature outside was only 80.
“And, toddlers not having efficient footing can’t get up as fast as older children can,” Kisler said.
The answer
The Kansas City Department of Parks and Recreation sent a certified playground safety inspector to investigate the merry-go-round.
“It was determined that instead of removing it, because it is such a popular play experience, we would try and use heat resistant/reflective paint to solve the problem,” said David Burke, an area superintendent with the department.
The painting will by done by the end of the week, he said.
“The department, as a practice now, stays away from installing any new pieces of equipment that would have a metal play surface,” Burke added.
The Consumer Reports article, written by Jason Harary, advises parents to make sure their children wear shoes on the playground and choose shaded equipment when possible. Parents also should test the equipment with the backs of their hands.
“If it’s too hot for you, it’s definitely too hot for the little ones,” Harary wrote.
The Watchdog says paws, too, can get burned on hot pavement.
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