Keyword Site Search

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

A 23-month old boy made his way 150 ft. downhill from the playground in Columbia, Md. and drowned in Lake Elkhorn. 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."

The following are incidents involving playground fencing. Consultant's names 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."

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.

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 in the playground.

  2. One playground consultant knows of or has handled cases as an expert on at least 12 incidents involving cars crashing into playgrounds.

  3. 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.

  4. Yet another playground consultant is aware of a child who ran out of the playground through an opening in the fence (no gate present) while chasing a ball, and got hit by a truck.

  5. Another playground consultant is aware of a child killed by a car in the Tallahassee, Fla. In addition, a child went after a ball and drowned in a pond.

Gaps in play area fencing have, on ocassion, put children in harm's way.

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."

  3. Palmdale, Calif. At Barrel Springs School, the playground is located near Pearblossom Highway, which has a speed limit of 65 mph. (Yes, this is a "common sense" one!) There is only a chain link fence separating the playground from the highway. The school is considering installing water or sand-filled plastic barrels to stop vehicles from coming onto the playground. The point is, the school is being proactive.
  4. 18th Century Primary School. In 2000, "a car hit a crash barrier on the corner on which the school resides, but fortunately the barrier stopped this vehicle plowing into the playground. In September 2002, two cars narrowly missed crashing into the playground fence. Clearly, the speeding traffic and the reckless driving of motorists are issues of great concern to the school...and the fear remains that the school to date has been very lucky to have escaped unscathed the incidents that have taken place."


  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. Orlando Fla. I currently have a case involving a child who was injured on the face by the latch (below 48" high) of a playground fence gate located at a child care center. Those are the only details that I am allowed to give, as I am the plaintiff's expert.
  3. I was called by an attorney about a car that jumped a parking lot curb and barreled into a Maryland playground at an apartment complex and caused injuries.
  4. South Carolina. A child slipped through the bars (more than a four inch gap) of a McDonald's playground fence and ran toward a six-lane highway. Unable to chase the child because the playground gate was padlocked, the adult with the child scaled a six ft. fence and caught the child just 50 feet from the highway.

    A jury insisted on a published recommendation about the fencing and asked that settlement money help pay for improved fencing.

    Note: The book Developmental Benefits of Playgrounds (2004) by Joe Frost, Pei-San Brown, et al., p. 227 is a "Playground Checklist" to aid planning and evaluating playgrounds. Section I #14 says to check fences, gates, walls and windows that provide security for young children. Section II #1 says to check "a protective fence (with lockable gates) next to hazardous areas (streets, deep ditches, water, etc.)." In #20, it says "No water hazards – access to pools, creeks. No traffic hazards – streets, parking lots, delivery areas."

    This identifies the need to have fencing and agrees with the types of hazards stated in the ASTM Standard.

  5. 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."

  6. 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.
  7. 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 Costa 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.
  8. Vancouver, B.C. A Honda Civic went out of control, crashing through a playground fence and injured three children and one woman, sending them to the hospital with severe injuries. Comment: Fence lacked a discrete or continuous barrier.
  9. At Wellington City: A pregnant mother threw her 18-month-old son to safety just before being struck by a car that smashed through a playground fence and just missed her other son. She went to the hospital with serious injuries. Another case of mistaking the gas pedal for the brake. Comment: Fence again lacked a discrete or continuous barrier.
  10. Oxford: Two-year old Callum Kelly slipped through a playground fence and came within "two steps" of running onto a busy main road. Mother was present and supervising. The child could get through a gap in the fence but the Mother could not.

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

Related Stories

October 13, 2019, 6:52 pm PDT

Website problems, report a bug.
Copyright © 2019 Landscape Communications Inc.
Privacy Policy