Keeping Our Playgrounds Safe - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Keeping Our Playgrounds Safe

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When Spring finally emerges in North Dakota we witness the many changes Winter delivered.
Pot holes are one example.
Cracks in the driveway are another.
But, those changes happen at playgrounds too.
Mike Chaussee and photojournalist Tom Palanuk introduce us to one of the people who looks for those changes...to keep our kids safer.

The moms and babysitters at this playground watch the kids like hawks.
They have high expectations.

"Expect it to be clean and kid friendly" says Emily Brunskill.

And when the expectations aren't met, they're not happy.
"We've noticed dirty diapers.  All over the place and... I understand they take the garbage's away some seasons but people can clean up their dirty diapers." says Brook Pesta.

"Diapers are very common."

Greg Smith is a dad, and he keeps and eye on the parks too.

"We want them to play, we don't want them to get hurt.  Where's that fine line, because they are children.  They're not prolific athletes on this equipment." says Smith.

They're going to take some risks and they're going to push themselves past the point they probably should, which is good.  That's the way they learn and grow."

Greg Smith is also one of 12 certified playground inspectors working for Bismarck Parks and Rec.

"We may have found something." 

During the summer, inspectors check the parks once every couple of weeks.
Here ... he's using, plastic probes to measure if kids could slide their whole body through this opening feet first...but get their head stuck.
"What we might do is adjust this up.  Somehow get that bent up or loosen these collars and bring the deck up or the protective barrier back down to eliminate this chance of head entrapment that's in this one particular little spot...CLANK...right there.  The rest of the deck the probe will not pass through." says Smith.

He's thorough.
And he needs to be.
"When you're inspecting playgrounds it's a totally different matter in terms of what we're looking for and the level..because playgrounds are almost exclusively used by children so we want a little higher degree of inspection capability involved there.  Because kids know playgrounds but they don't always identify hazards at a playground.  That's our job as the adults." says Smith.

He says it can also be our job as adults to play on the playground.
He says it's good to stress the equipment.

"That's fine.  In fact, that's a good quality of a playground safety inspector is that we encourage them to get on the equipment and use it." says Smith.

Maybe that's why they do most of their inspections...
While no one is watching.

Smith says they do inspections early in the morning so they aren't interfering with kids playing.

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