Play It Safe, An Anthology of Playground Safety

Play It Safe, An Anthology of Playground Safety

The original Play It Safe, An Anthology of Playground Safety was edited by Monty Christiansen in 1992. Hans Vogelsong joined Monty in editing the 2nd edition, which was published in 1996 by The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). NRPA's National Playground Safety Institute (NPSI) sponsored this “extensive compilation of monographs written by national play and playground safety authorities.”1

Monty and Hans gathered twenty playground authorities to “peer coach” by sharing their playground knowledge in monographs. Though they shared their information on a broad variety of issues concerning playgrounds, they had a common focus:

“Play is an essential early-life function. Children's playgrounds – the places children play - must therefore be well conceived, designed, constructed, maintained, and operated with the same care and consideration for the growth, development, and safety of the children as society requires for other early-life function support facilities.”2

This wealth of expertise is organized into 4 sections: the history of playgrounds and playground safety; the attention to child development, safety, accessibility and supervision needed in playground planning; the established guidelines and procedures for playground safety inspections and maintenance programs; and the risk, liability, and legality issues of today. There is also a detailed bibliographic list of play and playground resources, a glossary of playground terminology, and a complete index.

The first section, “Play and Playgrounds: How They Grew Up,” includes a history of playgrounds in the United States by Sue C. Wortham, and a history of playground safety by Donna Thompson, a Director on the 1996 NPSI Board.

In the second section, “Planning Playgrounds: Child Development, Safety, Accessibility and Supervision,” there are six mongraphs. First Suzanne Thompson explains the role of play in developing children, and then Susan Goltsman, Sally McIntyre, and Robin Moore explain how play environments support that development. Deborah K. Tinsworth highlights the results of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) 1990 study concerning playground injuries and deaths, Steve King discusses the issues of accessibility for all children while maintaining safety standards, and Frances S. Daly explores the issues of playground supervision. Donna Thompson and Teri Hendy, outline a systematic approach for including all these issues in their monograph, “Playground Master Planning.”

There are eight monographs in the third section, “The Care and Feeding of Playgrounds: Guidelines and Procedures.” First the CPSC Handbook is introduced by John Preston, and lastly it is extensively compared with the ASTM International (ASTM) F1487 – 95 Safety Standards by Fran Wallach and Donna Thompson. In between, Fran Wallach defines the difference between playground risks and hazards and how to identify the hazards, Mike Haywood introduces the necessity of an inspection program, and Kevin J. Hoffman further defines a responsible inspection and audit program by public entities.

Teri Hendy focuses on two particular concerns of a playground safety inspection: protrusions and entrapments. Her monograph was used in the NPSI video and instruction sheet that accompanies their entrapment probes and protrusion gauge test kit.

To round out the care of playgrounds, Ken Kutska first introduces the basics of playground maintenance, and then with Kevin Hoffman further discusses the issues of replacing aging or non-compliant playground equipment in order to maintain safety standards. Ken and Kevin later collaborated with Antonio Malkusak to write Playground Safety Is No Accident, a further treatment of these same issues of audits, inspections, and equipment maintenance.3

Section four, “Playgrounds and Liability: Professional and Legal Standards,” begins with Betsy R. Kutska's overview of playground risk management from the liability standpoint. Steven J. Kleinman builds on Betsy's risk management to include procedures necessary after an accident occurs and before a trial. He notes the importance of these steps since most civil cases never reach the trial stage. James C. Kozlowski reviews four playground liability court cases and the relationship of industry standards with legal standards. And finally, Fran Wallach, outlines the legal procedures when a lawsuit is filed.

All of the above monographs were reviewed by their authors and updated for the 2nd edition. The Bibliographic Source List of Play and Playground Resources was updated by Hans Vogelsong and a Glossary of Playground Terminology was added by Monty Christiansen and Alan Case.

  • 1. Christiansen, Monty L. and Hans Vogelsong. “Acknowledgments of Appreciation by Ken Kutska.” Play It Safe: An Anthology of Playground Safety. 2nd ed. Arlington, VA: The National Recreation & Park Association, 1996. p. iv.
  • 2. Christiansen, Monty L. and Hans Vogelsong. “Introduction by Monty L. Christiansen.” Play It Safe: An Anthology of Playground Safety.. ed. 2nd ed. Arlington, VA: The National Recreation & Park Association, 1996. p. vii.
  • 3. Kutska, Kenneth S., Kevin J. Hoffman, and Antonio Malkusak. Playground Safety Is No Accident. 3rd ed., Arlington, VA: Division of Professional Services of National Playground Safety Institute of The National Recreation & Park Association. 2002.