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Playground Safety in the UK
August 27, 2002

"Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash." —George S. Patton


Professor David Ball of Middlesex University's Centre for Decision Analysis and Risk Management recently published a report on playground safety in the United Kingdom, based on the first research on this subject in over a decade. The aim of the research was to consider the effectiveness of the various steps taken to improve playground safety in recent years.

Some of Professor Ball's conclusions:

* The risk of injury in UK playgrounds is low in comparison to the other risks to which children are exposed and have changed little in the period covered by the research.

* The major risk factors in playgrounds are behaviour, equipment height, and body orientation in falls to the ground.

* Despite the introduction of playground safety measures such as IAS (impact absorbing surfacing), playground injuries are not decreasing. IAS is a surfacing material designed to reduce the risk of head injuries by absorbing the impact of a fall. Professor Ball found that the scientific evidence of the effectiveness of IAS as a risk reduction measure is mixed and he raises doubts as to whether the costs of IAS are proportional to the resulting reduction in injuries to children. This conclusion raises important questions about what other measures could and should be taken to produce a positive benefit in reducing unacceptable risks in playgrounds.

Professor Ball also discusses a view that children's opportunities for play are diminishing due to concerns about safety, litigation and the cost of safety measures such as IAS (impact absorbing surfacing) The report explores the international literature on the benefits of play provision for children and the balance between a child's need to play and the risk of being injured.

To read the complete report, "Playgrounds - risks, benefits and choices" go to...


In the upcoming September issue of Child Care Information Exchange, Reggio Emilia's Amelia Gambetti discusses the issue of balancing play and risk. For information about Exchange go to


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