In Philadelphia, winter often means the end of hours of outdoor recreation. Yet many schools and parents alike have decided that a little cold weather won’t deter them. Kids across the Philadelphia region are fortunate to have year-round recess, bundling up to play outside in all types of weather.
The winter does present some unique challenges when it comes to playground safety. Unlike in summer months, when the potential dangers of a playground are readily apparent, the risks of playing outside in the cold weather are often hidden. That can make it a challenge for educators and parents to prepare for outdoor recreation — and to keep kids safe.
Playground injuries are far too common in the United States.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children aged 14 and younger each year for playground-related injuries.
Children between the ages of 5 and 9 have the highest rates of rates of emergency department visits for playground injuries, with most injuries happening at school.
45% of playground injuries are severe, including fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations, and amputations. 75% of nonfatal playground injuries occurred on public playgrounds, with most happening at schools and daycare centers. More injuries occur on climbers than on any other piece of equipment.
Causes of Winter Playground Accidents
There are a number of potential causes of playground accidents. According to SafeKids.org, the most common cause of playground injury is falls, accounting for 75% of all playground accidents. Lack of supervision or improper supervision is responsible for another 45% of playground injuries. In winter, there are other types of hazards that are not typically seen in the summer. These factors may lead to serious or even fatal injuries. These conditions may include:
- Slippery equipment, covered in ice, freezing rain or snow;
- Unsafe ground cover due to snow or ice;
- Frozen ground cover;
- Snow piles that may lead to suffocation if a child cannot escape or if it collapses;
- Snow or ice that obscures unsafe playground equipment.
In addition, the type of clothing that children wear during the winter — such as heavy coats, gloves, hats, and scarves, may contribute to this danger. If a scarf, drawstring or other cord gets caught on a piece of equipment, it may lead to an accident, including suffocation or choking. For these reasons, adults monitoring children on playgrounds in the winter have to be on high alert to keep them safe.
Who Is Responsible for Playground Injuries?
If your child is injured on a playground, it may be possible to file a personal injury or premises liability lawsuit. However, not every Philadelphia playground injury will result in a legal claim. A seasoned Philadelphia premises liability lawyer can help you determine if another party, such as a school, manufacturer, government entity (such as a city or town), or another organization may be held liable for your child’s injuries.
The first question is what entity owns the playground — a school, a city or county, a private organization, a homeowner, or a local non-profit. Next, your attorney will investigate your case to determine how your child’s injury was caused. If it was caused by the equipment itself, then the manufacturer or the contractor who installed it may be liable. If the injury was caused by poor maintenance, such as a rusty nail poking out of the wood, then the organization or business responsible for maintaining the playground could be held responsible.
If the injury was caused by lack of supervision, then the entity responsible for supervising your child may be deemed liable. For example, if your child was at school and was not supervised while on the playground and broke his arm when he slipped off of an icy piece of playground equipment, then you may be able to file a claim against the school. However, if you took your child to the local playground and your child was hurt because you were not watching him, you may not be able to file a claim.
How to Keep Your Child Safe on the Playground This Winter
Winter can be brutal in the Philadelphia area, from December right through those late winter/early spring snowstorms that plague our region. If you still want your kids to get outside and exercise, there are ways to keep them safe.
First, be careful about how you bundle your kids up for cold weather. Avoid scarves and any hats or hoods with drawstrings. Anything that dangles could get tangled in playground equipment and choke or suffocate your child. Instead, look for a neck gaiter and items without strings to keep your child warm without the possibility of suffocation.
Second, if your child is wearing snow pants, avoid the slide. The nylon fabric will allow your child to travel much more quickly down the slide. While that may sound fun, if the ground is frozen, the chances of an injury are that much greater.
Third, if you are at the playground with your child, be sure to inspect it for snow and ice buildup, including on handrails. Slip and fall accidents account for 75% of all playground injuries. Taking this basic precaution can help to reduce the risk of a fall.
Fourth, be sure to watch your kids closely. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your child at the playground, but this is even more important in the winter, where the ground cover may be frozen and the risk of accidents is even higher.
How a Philadelphia Premises Liability Attorney Can Help
At Solnick & Associates, we have devoted our practice to helping victims of all types of negligence, including children who have been injured on playgrounds. Our team of skilled Philadelphia premises liability lawyers will work hard to help you get the money that you deserve for your child’s injuries, so that you can focus on helping your child heal. To learn more or to schedule an appointment with a Philadelphia premises liability lawyer, contact our office today at 877-415-6495 or click here to contact us online anytime.