Monday, April 24, 2017

How Safe is the Playground Where Your Child Plays? Learn what to look for during National Playground Safety Week

(Salt Lake City, Utah) – When the bell rings for recess, school children make a dash for the playground. But for nearly 1,700 children attending public elementary schools – enough students to fill 24 school buses – playgrounds will be the cause of bumps, bruises, and even broken bones. In response, the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD), and LuckyDog Recreation held a playground safety inspection to highlight common hazards and ways to keep children active and safe on playgrounds.

“We want to make sure that kids are getting outside and staying active but doing so safely,” said Hillary Campbell, student injury reporting technician with the UDOH. Common playground safety hazards include loose bolts, cracks in slides, inadequate or improper surfacing materials, missing or damaged parts, rusted or corroded metals, and damage caused by vandalism.

“We inspect playground equipment to make sure there are no protruding nails, frayed ropes, or broken parts,” explained Zach Torres-George, environmental health scientist with the SLCoHD. “We also look for things that people might not consider such as the distance between horizontal bars so a person’s head can’t get stuck; making sure slides are shaded or face north; and trash, broken glass, or animal droppings in the play area.”

Data from the UDOH showed that from 2012 to 2015:
  • 67.1 percent of student injuries in Utah elementary schools occurred on a playground.
  • More playground injuries occurred during 5th grade than any other grade.
  • Most elementary school playground injuries (83.6 percent) occurred during recess. The most common activities during which these injuries occurred were playing on bars (26.5 percent), running (23.5 percent), and walking (6.0 percent).
  • Falls were the cause of 37.8 percent of all playground injuries, followed by tripping or slipping (29.7 percent) and collisions (23.7 percent).
  • The top three injuries received included possible fracture/broken bone (50.2 percent), cut/laceration (14.4 percent), and bump/bruise/contusion (9.3 percent).  
Christine Christensen, principal at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School welcomes regular inspections. “We have 750 students using the playground equipment every day.  One would expect there to be wear and tear on the equipment and repairs needed. The inspections help us to be proactive in keeping the playground in good repair and ensuring the safety of all our students.”

UDOH has the following recommendations for schools to keep playgrounds safe:
  • Establish and enforce playground safety rules (such as no pushing, crowding, or shoving).
  • Always have trained adult supervisors present whenever children are playing on the equipment.
  • Develop a playground inspection and equipment maintenance checklist.
  • Promptly repair broken playground equipment and make sure proper surfacing materials are used (such as wood chips, pea gravel, shredded rubber mulch, etc.).
  • Schedule regular inspections.
Injury hazards don’t just exist on school playgrounds. Torres-George hopes that the public will be their eyes and report problems. “We can’t be everywhere all of the time so we rely on the public to help. If you’re concerned about a safety hazard at a public playground, report it to the parks and recreation department in that area.”

Tips to keep playgrounds and play surfaces safe, potential hazards to watch for, and inspection checklists can be found at

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Media Contacts:
Tammy Kikuchi, UDOH
(o) 801-538-6426
Pam Davenport, SLCoHD
(o) 385-468-4122 (m) 801-209-0986

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Empowering Bystanders to Stop Sexual Violence

(Salt Lake City, Utah) – One in three Utah women will experience some form of sexual violence during their lives. Studies also show that one in eight Utah women and one in 50 Utah men will be raped. The direct and indirect costs resulting from sexual violence in 2011 alone totaled almost $5 billion, which was about $1,700 per Utah resident. The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) will begin using a promising new strategy, called bystander intervention, to equip citizens with the skills and tools necessary to prevent sexual violence.

“Bystander intervention is simple to understand; however, it’s often not practiced because people lack the confidence and training to intervene in potentially violent situations,” explained Marty Liccardo, men’s engagement specialist with the UDOH Violence and Injury Prevention Program.

Bystander intervention occurs when someone intervenes before, during, or after a situation that is violent or harmful to another person, group, or community. For example, a bystander could interrupt an argument between friends or partners, tell someone not to bully or criticize another person, or get help for someone who is being harmed or victimized.

Research suggests bystander intervention is effective but requires practice to be successful – individuals need to learn skills and practice those skills in order to be prepared to do something when the time comes. “Many people just aren’t sure what to do to help others or they think someone else will help. Bystander intervention aims to empower people to step up and act when they hear or see harm,” said Liccardo.

This strategy is appealing to prevention professionals because it can reduce victim-blaming, shift unhealthy and negative social norms to more positive beliefs, and help every person find their place and responsibility in violence prevention.

The UDOH will offer bystander intervention trainings for community agencies to coincide with April being National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Distraction and “silent stares” or making people aware that they are being observed are just a few of the strategies that will be taught to diffuse a potentially violent situation. Other bystander intervention tips include:
  • Make sure you are safe first and will continue to be safe when you intervene.
  • Recruit others to help you.
  • If you can’t intervene safely, call for help.
“We hope the training actually moves people from being bystanders to what we call ‘upstanders’ or anyone who steps in or responds when they believe someone is being harmed,” said Liccardo.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted and needs help, call the Rape and Sexual Assault Crisis Line at 1-888-421-1100. The hotline is free and open 24 hours a day/7 days a week.

For more information about bystander intervention and sexual violence prevention, visit

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Media Contact:
Tammy Kikuchi
Violence and Injury Prevention Program
(801) 538-6426