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- Daily inspections of the playground will include but not be limited to, a search for the following hazards: needles, glass and other sharp objects.(Glass and non-biohazardous sharp materials can be disposed of in hard plastic or metal containers in the dumpster. However, if syringes are discovered, the Health Consultant should be notified so that the local police department can dispatch the needle disposal service to the location. This is important so that other paraphernalia can be confiscated and illicit drug use on Head Start property is reported appropriately). Suspicious persons do not have any legitimate reason being in or around the playground area. Search areas underneath play structures and swings for the depth of ground cover, (bark chips, sand, etc.) to be adequate, (at least 12 inches). Other dangers may include: poisonous or hazardous foliage including sharp branches, thorns, poisonous mushrooms, bee or wasp nests and wood structures that have sharp splinters, bolts, nails, etc.
- Regional Managers should inspect the playground with staff several times throughout the program year, focusing on these areas:Movable play structures must only be located on a cushioned surface (with 6 feet of space on all sides) in an area that is at least 6-8 feet away from jumping (from structures) and running zones.
- Some equipment located on public school playgrounds is inappropriate for the ages of Head Start children (ex: monkey bars, chain and net climbers, free standing arch climbers, sliding poles). Head Start children should not be allowed to play on these structures and should be instructed to only play on the structures that are age appropriate.
- Staff should be familiar with the CPSC Playground Safety Checklist.
- Sandboxes should be covered to avoid contamination from animals. If vandalism is a problem with a site’s playground, mechanisms to prevent vandalism should be explored.
- Staff will routinely go over playground safety rules with children and consistently reinforce the rules. These rules should be written and include appropriate pictures or visual cues and should encompass:
- Training for teachers regarding playground safety will be developed based on the CPSC Public Playground Safety Handbook as a reference. Each RM will have a copy of the Playground Safety Handbook as a reference.
- Establishment of areas that are safe for running (i.e., not under play structures where a child might be jumped on).
- Establishment of playground boundaries if fences are not present. In this case some type of visual marker must be used and introduced to children as the playground boundary.
- Appropriate places to jump off play structure. Safety rules related to elevated areas where children of this size and age should not be jumping: Anything at or above four feet is too high for children of this age to safely jump from.
- Appropriate play for slide safety: Sitting down facing frontward on slide is considered safe. Unsafe slide play would be laying down head first, sitting down backwards, climbing up slide,jumping off top of slide, etc.
- Sand play: throwing, eating, putting down clothing, etc.
- Safety regarding found objects, (e.g- glass, syringes, trash,insects)
- Tricycle play:
- Talk about traffic safety (driver and pedestrian) rules when going over trike safety. Establish a specific direction of travel and safe location for children to ride without running into pedestrians. Add crosswalks if necessary.
- There will always be a minimum of two staff on the playground during outdoor play. The ratio must never fall below 1Head Start staff per 10 children and more commonly should be at 1 Head Start staff per 8 (or less) children. (Note: This ratio specifically clarifies that only Head Start staff will be considered the supervising adults when children are on the playground, parents and volunteers can increase the ratio of adults to children but they will at no time replace the Head Start staff to child ratio which is 1-10 or1-8).
- Staff must be strategically located on the playground so that they are on opposite sides of the play structure and situated so that all the children are within view at all times.
- First Aid kits must always be taken and carried by a staff person when the children are engaged in outdoor play. First aid kits carry items that pose potential risks to children and are not to be placed on a bench or other area where they are in reach of children or can be picked up by others. If the playground is directly adjacent to the building and there is an easily accessible place within view that it can be hung (on the building) out of reach of children, this is an acceptable location to place it.
This policy complies with Head Start Performance Standard 45 CFR Section 1304.22.
It has been approved by Policy Council October 14, 1997.
Revised June 13, 2001. August 2009
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