The Top 5 Hazards on Playgrounds

By Dora Esparza, Business Leadership Specialist

Dora Esparza

As a Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI), one of the more fun aspects of my job is going out and seeing all the amazing playgrounds at child care sites in Denver! I thought it would be interesting to share with you the top 5 issues and potential hazards I regularly find on playground inspections. Do any of these look familiar?

    1. Rust- This is something that impacts a large number of playgrounds due to some of the extreme weather we have here in Colorado. There can be rust under the rubber coating on playground platforms, rust on bolts, rust on the underside of stairs, and rust under the slide. Sometimes it can be sanded out and re-coated, but oftentimes if there is enough rust the part will need to be replaced.
    2. Bolts Too Long- Another issue I have seen is bolt length. Oftentimes they are too long and stick out. This can cause children to get hurt when they are running around playing. Bolts should be limited to only two threads out so that they are short and children will not risk hurting themselves by running into the end of the bolt
    3. Not Enough Space- I have seen many playgrounds where there is too much equipment crammed into the space. This is an issue because there is not enough open space for children to run and play without running into stepping stones, a small tunnel, or other small pieces of equipment. I would encourage you to really observe which pieces on the playground the children are using and remove any equipment that is not popular or obstructs natural paths.
    4. Inadequate Surfacing- This is one that I think many sites struggle with. There are pros and cons to almost all playground surfacing options. The one I see most commonly is wood chips or wood fibers. This type of surfacing is actually one of the best for providing fall protection, however it does get compressed down with the temperature variations that happen regularly here in Colorado. I would suggest designating an opening staff person to go out and rake up the wood to fluff it up before the children go out and play on it. One other caution about wood chips: they can get displaced easily, leaving the areas at the bottom of slides or under swings fairly exposed. I would recommend fall mats under those two areas if possible.
    5. Trash on Playgrounds- This is something I see more often in playgrounds that are exposed to public areas. It can be easy to find cigarette butts, plastic bags and possibly needles in areas that are exposed. Again, it would be best to have someone walk through the playground each morning before the children go out to ensure that the playground is hazard-free and safe enough for the children to play on.
  1. Overall, playgrounds are great for children’s health and are often the most favorite part of a child’s day. It’s important that they are safe place for them to play and run. As a CPSI, I am qualified to perform playground inspections, which help your program identify and address safety issues like the ones mentioned above. The results of your inspection can also inform your program’s overall quality improvement plan in the Colorado Shines Quality Rating and Improvement System.
  2. Please feel free to contact me with questions or to schedule your playground inspection at
  3. Have fun and play hard!
  4. Dora
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