Commentary: Tips for safe summer fun

As the last days of the school year wind down, kids and their families will be spending lots of time outside throughout the summer months. Whether it’s having fun swimming in the backyard pool, going to the local playground, or out riding bikes with their friends here are some tips to keep in mind to stay safe.

•Pool Safety — Drowning is the number one cause of accidental deaths among young children. For families with back yard pools — wading, inflatable, above-ground or in-ground — setting up several barriers is important.

Install a fence completely around the pool. If the house is one side of the barrier, then doors leading from the house to the pool should be protected with an alarm. Fencing or other barriers should be at least 4 feet high – no footholds or handholds that could help a child to climb it.

Maryanne McGerty-Sieber

Gates should be self-closing and self-latching — never leave a gate propped open. Don’t use flotation devices as a substitute for supervision. Consider designating a “Water Watcher” to take turns during social gatherings. Make sure kids learn to swim and adults should know how to perform CPR on children. At the end of the day, remove toys from in and around the pool and remove ladders from above ground pools when not in use.

•Playgrounds — Each year, more than 200,000 children go to U.S. hospital emergency rooms with injuries associated with playground equipment. The most common type of playground injury is a child falling from a piece of equipment. Be sure that the public playground your child uses has been inspected and maintained and has 12 inches of shock absorbing surface material such as wood chips, mulch, sand or safety-tested rubber mats.

Cover exposed hardware that can catch clothing and remove any free-standing ropes. Both are strangulation hazards. Always check the temperature of the equipment and surfacing before letting your children play on the playground. If it feels hot to your hand, it may be too hot for a child’s bare skin. Always supervise children while playing.

•Bicycle Helmets — Always wear the right protective headgear for the right activity. Wearing a helmet can protect your head in a fall and even save your life. Look for a label stating conformance with the CPSC standard when shopping for a new helmet.

Never buy a helmet secondhand and make sure to replace any helmet that’s been in an accident. Be sure your child is wearing a properly fitted helmet. If you’re buying a helmet for your child, bring them with you so that it’s properly fitted. It should fit snugly, be flat on top of the head and a have a buckled chin strap.

Bring your helmets on vacation if biking, skateboarding or ATVs will be part of your activities. Depending on where you live, there are often laws requiring children to wear a helmet while riding their bikes or skateboarding. It’s important that adults wear helmets too!

Maryanne McGerty-Sieber is product safety investigator for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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