California Playground Injury Investigations Expert Article

While there are national standards for playground safety through ASTM, some states, like California, have additional codes and requirements. Through the lens of a specific case example, Dr. Suzanne Rodriguez discusses the standards relevant to California playground injury litigation.

California Playground Injury Investigation Expert Witness

Case Example – Minor Injured on Public Playground

A 5-year-old child was enrolled in a licensed childcare facility and was swinging on a swing set located on the facility’s outdoor playground, during a scheduled “after-school” recess. The swing support structure contained two single-axis or to-fro swings in one swing bay.

The 5-year-old child was swinging in one of the single-axis swings, and a 12-year-old child was swinging on the other single-axis swing. While the two children were simultaneously swinging on the swing set, the swing set began to rock back and forth, and the swing structure toppled over. Both children fell out of their swings and onto the safety surfacing material underneath and around the swing set, which consisted of wood mulch.

As a result of the fall, the 5-year-old child suffered a traumatic brain injury. One teacher reported that she was inside the childcare facility looking out onto the outdoor playground when she noticed the swing set toppling over. She then ran outside toward the swing set. By the time she reached the swing set, both the swing set and the children were on the ground.

Dr. Suzanne Rodriguez was retained to evaluate the standard of care as it applied to the safety of the play equipment, the surfacing material under and around the equipment, and the supervision of the children in the play environment.

Relevant California Playground Safety Standards

The state of California specifies requirements for the safety of public playgrounds within Health and Safety Code - HSC § 115725. As it relates to the safety of equipment and surfacing materials, HSC § 115725 defers to established standards from ASTM; however, the California code provides additional guidance that is frequently relevant to playground injury litigation, including:

  • Inspection Requirements
  • The Definition of a Public Playground

Additional information and guidance on national playground safety standards can be obtained from the National Recreation and Park Association or the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Public Playground Safety Handbook.

Findings from Expert Witness Investigation

Upon review of the case documents, application of the CPSC and ASTM standards, and expert analysis, it was found that the childcare facility and its personnel fell below the standard of care when they:

  1. Failed to ensure that the swing structure was anchored to the ground in a manner that permitted safe usage. This created a dangerous condition that caused the swing structure to topple over when used in its intended manner.
  2. Failed to ensure that adequate safety surfacing material was maintained under and around the incident swing structure.
  3. Failed to provide adequate and effective playground supervision of children in their care.
  4. Failed to have equipment evaluated by a Certified Playground Safety Inspector at the time it was introduced to the play area.

Child Supervision & Playground Safety Experts

Among the supervision experts at Robson Forensic are former teachers, school administrators, and child/adult day care program coordinators. They have hands on experience working in organized public and private care settings, designing, and implementing safety policies, establishing processes and procedures to screen, hire, and train staff, and reporting/investigating incidents.

For more information, submit an inquiry or call us at 800.813.6736.

Featured Expert

Suzanne Rodriguez, School Administration & Social Work Expert

Suzanne Rodriguez, Ed.D., M.S.W., P.P.S.C., C.P.S.I.

School Administration & Social Work Expert
Dr. Rodriguez is a California-based Certified Playground Safety Inspector, certified by the National Recreation and Park Association (NPRA). This certification, in addition to her educational background, qualifies her to evaluate playground supervision, equipment, maintenance, maintenance records, safety, and the adherence to ASTM playground standards and National guidelines.

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