Parents warned to ensure children's safety at playgrounds

By Lydia Anderson

HAVING FUN: But falling from playground equipment such as swings can cause injury.
HAVING FUN: But falling from playground equipment such as swings can cause injury.

Hundreds of Hawke's Bay children are being injured at playgrounds every year, sparking warnings to parents to watch over them.

Nearly 1250 Bay playground injury claims have been lodged with ACC since 2008, costing taxpayers $276,679.

Hawke's Bay boys suffer more injuries than girls, and 5-to-9-year-olds are most prone to playground accidents, ACC figures show.

Nationwide, monkey bars caused the most injuries, followed by flying foxes, jungle gyms, climbing frames, seesaws and merry-go-rounds.

Napier City Council reserves asset manager Tony Billing said council playgrounds were designed in accordance with New Zealand Standards for playground equipment and surfacing, which are not mandatory, but set out best practice design guidelines.

He was not aware of any reported injuries in Napier council playgrounds over the last four years.

Playgrounds had to be challenging enough for kids that they became inspired when they played in them, he said.

"If you wrap people up in cotton wool then you get no real growth - we don't walk on grass because they might get a prickle.

"Kids will get bored - if you put something in there that's no challenge then the kids won't play with it.

"If there's a challenge to it ... that's fantastic and as long as it meets the safety standards that's not a problem."

The extension of the Marine Parade playground earlier this year was designed to "put the play back into playground".

"For years you had swings and slides and roundabouts and that was it, take it or leave it."

Statistics gathered by Safekids New Zealand show fall-related injuries, which include falling from playground equipment, are the leading cause of unintentional child injury resulting in hospital admission.

Between 2005 and 2009, more than 1700 children aged between 5 and 9 were admitted to hospital each year on average after suffering falls, according to data from the University of Otago.

Boys were more likely to be hospitalised than girls and more than half of all fall-related child hospitalisations involved falls from playground equipment.

Safekids director Ann Weaver said primary school-aged children suffered the most injuries as they started to gain independence and became subject to less parental supervision.

"The attitude in New Zealand is ... 'she'll be right' and 'children need to take risks and learn from experience'."

However recent research showed repeated "little taps to the head" from a fall in the playground, or playing contact sport such as rugby, could lead to brain injuries later in life, she said.

Serious falls causing broken bones or internal injuries could also result in long-term consequences and limit the chances of playing sport later in life.

"Children's heads are more fragile at that age and we do need to be a little bit more cautious about trying to reduce these horrific fall statistics.

"We want to encourage active [parental] supervision - it's not sitting on the bench off to the side reading the newspaper or having a coffee and chatting.

"It's actually being there next to your child or within reach and watching what they're doing," Ms Weaver said.

"I know that I'll get shot down for mollycoddling children but that's not what it's about.

"I don't think it's acceptable for that number of children to be hospitalised."

New Zealand compared "very poorly" to other countries in terms of child hospitalisation statistics, Ms Weaver said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 21 Dec 2014 11:26:36 Processing Time: 251ms