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Playground Fencing

by Scott Burton, President, Safety Play, Inc. Certified Playground Safety Inspector (C.P.S.I.), S.A.F.E. Certified International Safety Consultant

Vehicles have on occasion driven through chain link fencing into playgrounds. Per ASTM F 2049 the fence should have "discrete" or "continuous" barriers in front.

The following are incidents involving playground fencing. The names of consultants are kept anonymous, except for my own. Many of the instances sited here would have been prevented or mitigated if the playground fencing met the standards of ASTM F2049-03 "Standard Guide for Fences/Barriers for Public, Commercial, and Multi-Family Residential Use Outdoor Play Areas."

Consultant Feedback

  1. Lee Barocas of Los Angeles County Parks & Recreation Dept. informed me of an accident in which the driver meant to step on the brake but hit the gas and crashed through a chain link fence surrounding a playground. The fence did not stop the vehicle. It was fortunate there was no one on the playground.
  2. Other playground consultants have stated it is a matter of common sense to install protective fencing around playgrounds to keep children from running into traffic or parking lots adjoining playgrounds. On the flip side, some consultants have not heard of this being a problem.

Concerned Entities

  1. The League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust notes: "The city is only responsible if it has actual knowledge of a dangerous condition, does nothing, or if it negligently maintains adjacent city property so as to facilitate access to dangerous railroad property (e.g. the hole in city playground fence allows young children easy access to dangerous railroad property)."
  2. Grayslake Community Park District, October 5, 2005. A site plan was approved subject to "Clarification of fence style to be used between the playground and drive. Diminution, if possible, of masonry piers, at the playground fence, with inclusion of a reinforced decorative steel post system to protect from potential vehicle penetration into the playground."


  1. Columbia, Maryland. Alex Ferrera, 23-months old, strayed from his child care provider and drowned in Lake Elkhorn, approximately 150 feet away from the playground. To compound the problem, the lake is downhill from the playground, so a supervisor has to react that much faster to a child who is running toward a hazard. This raises the class of hazard and level of severity, as well as the likelihood that an injury or death will occur, as opposed to the lake being on the same grade as the playground. Note: ASTM Standard F 2373 (Playground Equipment for Children 6 Months Old Through 23 Months Old), Section 11.9 states: Outdoor playgrounds intended for these children must be fenced and gated. Such fences and gates must not be head entrapments (different size of torso probe is used, 3" x 5" and 3" deep), have no sharp edges or points, have no protrusions or crush /shear points. Standard section 5.176 "Location of Play Areas Near Bodies of Water" states:
    "Outside play areas shall be free from ...unprotected swimming and wading pools, ditches, quarries, canals, excavations and other bodies of water."
  2. A boy in Ohio was struck and killed by a truck when he chased a ball off a school playground. There was no fence around the playground. It is alleged there was a lack of supervision. Note: Standard Section 5.178 "Enclosures for Outdoor Play Areas" states: "The outdoor play area shall be enclosed with a fence or natural barriers. Fences and barriers shall not prevent the observation of children by caregivers. Gates shall be equipped with self-closing and positive self-latching closure mechanisms. The latch or securing device shall be high enough or of a type such that small children cannot open it."
  3. Raleigh, N.C. Two three year olds climbed a five feet high fence and escaped from a KinderCare child care center and went missing for 35 minutes. They were found unharmed, even after crossing a four-lane road. Comment: Per ASTM F 2049 the fence should not be climbable.
  4. At South Coast Childcare Center in Costa Mesa, Calif. the playground was enclosed by a four ft. high chain link fence located on a busy street corner in Cost Mesa. On May 3, 1999, Steven Abrams intentionally drove his car through the fence, onto the playground, and into a group of children, killing two and injuring several others. Comment: Per ASTM F 2049 the fence should have "discrete" or "continuous" barriers in front.

I hope these examples are enlightening. Let's not forget about playground fencing safety!

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October 15, 2019, 5:15 am PDT

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