Playground safety regulations

Playground safety regulations address adult supervision, age-appropriate playground equipment and environment, fall surfacing, and maintenance of playground equipment and materials, often following the National Program for Playground Safety’s S.A.F.E. framework. As of 2009, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (US CPSC) estimates that 219,000 injuries are associated with playground equipment and treated in emergency departments each year (US CPSC-O’Brien 2009). Two-thirds of reported playground injuries involve falls from playground structures or equipment failures. 

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Reduced injury

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Increased physical activity

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is some evidence that playground safety regulations decrease injury rates among children (Norton 2004, Khambalia 2006, Kotch 2003). Playground regulations based on the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) guidelines are recommended by the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS-Regulations) and Safe Kids Worldwide (SKW). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Safety surfacing on playgrounds has been shown to reduce serious head injuries (Norton 2004). The risk of playground injuries appears to increase in the absence of safety surfacing and with higher playground equipment (Khambalia 2006). An Ohio-based study suggests that playgrounds with softer surfaces and equipment are associated with higher levels of physical activity among black children than playgrounds without them (Nasar 2013).

A North Carolina-based study of improved playground safety regulations suggests such regulations are associated with significant reductions in child care injury rates (Kotch 2003). Evaluations of Stamp-in-Safety, an effort to train preschool staff in active supervision, indicate increases in knowledge, perception, and self-efficacy around playground supervision and attentive supervisory behaviors (, ).

Impact on Disparities

No impact on disparities likely

Implementation Examples

Many states have passed legislation addressing playground safety, including: Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming (NPPS-Regulations). In a 2004 evaluation by the National Program for Playground Safety, the average state safety grade was C+ (NPPS-Report Cards).

Implementation Resources

US CPSC-Playground safety - US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Playground safety alerts, guides, and handbooks.

AAP-CFOC - American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Public Health Association (APHA), National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Child Care and Early Education (NRC). Caring for Our Children (CFOC): National health and safety performance standards; Guidelines for early care and education programs. 3rd edition. Elk Grove Village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; Washington, DC: American Public Health Association; 2011.

KidsHealth-Playground safety - KidsHealth. Playground safety.

NPPS-SAFE framework - National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS). S.A.F.E: The framework.

NPSI - Play and Playground Encyclopedia. National Playground Safety Institute (NPSI).

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

NPPS-Regulations - National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS). State regulations.

Khambalia 2006 - Khambalia A, Joshi P, Brussoni M, et al. Risk factors for unintentional injuries due to falls in children aged 0-6 years: A systematic review. Injury Prevention. 2006;12(6):378-81.

Kotch 2003 - Kotch JB, Hussey JM, Carter A. Evaluation of North Carolina child care safety regulations. Injury Prevention. 2003;9(3):220-5.

Norton 2004 - Norton C, Nixon J, Sibert JR. Playground injuries to children. Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2004;89(2):103-8.

SKW - Safe Kids Worldwide (SKW). Playground safety tips.

Nasar 2013 - Nasar JL, Holloman CH. Playground characteristics to encourage children to visit and play. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 2013;10:1201–8.

Schwebel 2015* - Schwebel DC, Pennefather J, Marquez B, Marquez J. Internet-based training to improve preschool playground safety: Evaluation of the Stamp-in-Safety Programme. Health Education Journal. 2015;74(1):37–45.

Schwebel 2006* - Schwebel DC, Summerlin AL, Bounds ML, Morrongiello BA. The Stamp-in-Safety Program: A behavioral intervention to reduce behaviors that can lead to unintentional playground injury in a preschool setting. Journal of Pediatric Psychology. 2006;31(2):152–162.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

NPPS-Regulations - National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS). State regulations.

NPPS-Report Cards - National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS). State report cards.

Date Last Updated

Jun 8, 2016