Kids get hurt when they play. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a recess game of kickball on the playground or a high school football game at the local stadium. It’s the nature of the beast.
But kids shouldn’t get hurt by hazards that aren’t part of the game. Collisions are part of the game. Getting run over in the parking lot is not. Breaking a finger catching a ball is part of the game. Almost losing your eye on the sharp edge of a temporary storage container is not.
We represented the family of a boy who was hurt during recess. The school had placed a large metal container on the playground to store playground balls and other equipment. The metal container was a “Jobox”.
The boy was playing hide-and-seek with his classmates. He hid inside the metal container. The lid to the container fell as the boy was peaking out. It struck the boy in the face just under his right eye.
The boy suffered a cut near his eye. An inch to the right and he would have lost it.
In Washington reasonable care requires the landowner to inspect for dangerous conditions, followed by such repair, safeguards, or warning as may be reasonably necessary under the circumstances.
WAC 246-366A-150 provides safety standards for playgrounds. It specifies that playgrounds must comply with ASTM F 1487-01: Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use and the Consumer Product Safety Commission Handbook for Public Playground Safety. Key provisions from the Handbook for Public Playground Safety follow:
3.1 Crush and Shearing Points
Anything that could crush or shear limbs should not be accessible to children on a playground. Crush and shear points can be caused by parts moving relative to each other or to a fixed part during a normal use cycle, such as a seesaw.
To determine if there is a possible crush or shear point,
- The likelihood a child could get a body part inside the point, and
- The closing force around the point.
3.4 Sharp Points, Corners, and Edges
Sharp points, corners, or edges on any part of the playground or playground equipment may cut or puncture a child’s skin. Sharp edges can cause serious lacerations if protective measures are not taken. To avoid the risk of injury from sharp points, corners and edges:
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- All corners, metal and wood, should be rounded.
- All metal edges should be rolled or have rounded capping.
The school should not have created the hazard, allowed it to persist or let students play in or around the metal Jobox. The school recognized its negligence and paid approximately 30 times the boy’s medical expenses to settle the case.