CPSC Offers Back-to-School Safety Tips

More than 50 million children are headed back to school any day now, and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is urging parents to pay special attention to safety this school year. Whether it's having children wear a helmet while they ride their bikes, watching out for dangerous drawstrings in children's jackets, or checking the safety of school soccer goals, CPSC offers safety tips that can keep children from being sidelined with injuries.

Wearing a bicycle helmet when biking or riding a scooter to and from school can reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent. Make sure your child's bicycle helmet has a label stating it meets CPSC's mandatory safety standard. About half of the 500,000 bicycle-related emergency room-treated injuries in 2007 involved children under the age of 16, the commission says. When taking part in other recreational activities, wear the right helmet for that activity. Read CPSC's "Which Helmet for Which Activity" publication, which helps parents choose the most appropriate helmet, at www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PUBS/349.pdf.

The agency says that more than 80 percent of the nearly 50,000 emergency room-treated injuries involving unpowered scooters in 2007 were to children younger than 15. In addition to wearing a helmet, scooter riders should wear elbow and knee pads, CPSC says. Among other tips, the commission advises:

  • Avoid children's clothing that uses drawstrings at the hood or neck area. These can catch on playground equipment and other items and are a strangulation hazard. Remove hood and neck drawstrings from upper outerwear clothing already in your child's closet, and do not buy children's clothing that uses them. Since 1985, CPSC says it has received reports of 27 deaths and 70 non-fatal incidents involving the entanglement of children's clothing drawstrings.
  • Avoid movable soccer goals. Unsecured, movable soccer goals can fall over and kill or injure children who climb on them or hang from the crossbar. Make sure soccer goals are securely anchored when in use. Never allow children to climb on the soccer net or goal framework. When not in use, anchor goals or chain them to a nearby fence post or sturdy framework. Since 1998, CPSC has reports of at least 7 deaths and an estimated 1,800 emergency department visits by children younger than 16 years of age that are related to soccer goal tip-overs and structural failures. For more information on soccer goal safety, visit www.cpsc.gov/CPSCPUB/PUBS/5118.html.
  • Check out playgrounds. Each year, more than 200,000 hospital emergency room visits are related to playground injuries, CPSC says. Most injuries occur when a child falls onto the playground surface. Check with school officials to make sure that equipment has been inspected and maintained. There should be at least nine inches of safe, shock absorbing surface material, and proper clearance around the equipment. Make sure exposed hardware or free-hanging ropes are not part of the equipment. Ropes and clothing catching on exposed hardware can be strangulation hazards. Elevated surfaces, like platforms and ramps, should have guardrails to prevent falls.
    School officials should be aware that shading at the playground with trees or other structures is an important consideration to reduce children's exposure to the sun. Schools should also be aware that hot sun can make playground slides and black rubber matting burn hazards for children. Listen to CPSC's podcast on playground safety at www.cpsc.gov/mp3.html.
  • Do not allow children to ride all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) to school due to the danger of riding on paved surfaces and never allow children to ride adult ATVs. For more information on ATV safety, visit www.atvsafety.gov.
  • Keep on top of recalled products. Sign up to receive e-mail alerts of just the CPSC recall announcements that you care about by going to www.cpsc.gov, or call CPSC's Hotline at (800) 638-2772 to hear about recalled products. If you have a recalled product, take it away from your child immediately and contact the firm for the repair, replacement or refund.

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