Playground safety mats

New York City has spent large sums installing black rubber safety mats beneath the equipment on its 1,000 playgrounds, but the mats get hot in the summer, and some kids are suffering burns which have resulted in lawsuits. It would cost $100 million to replace the mats, and it’s not clear with what, since loose pea gravel or wood shavings might harbor discarded syringes and the like. The founder of a group called NYC Park Advocates has the perfect cost-and-convenience-no-object answer: “Playgrounds should be designed with canopies.” And: “The city should be pressuring the manufacturers to come up with a solution.” Or the kids could wear shoes. (Sewell Chan, New York Times “City Room”, Jul. 21).


  • Or we could just take away all playgrounds so no one will get sued.

  • When I was growing up in the Bronx, the playgrounds were built on top of cement and the monkey bars were made of metal pipes. I guess it is a wonder that we managed to survived our childhood.

  • Yes, and you probably claim to have ridden a bicycle without riding a helmet as well, which we all know to be a heinous lie: everyone who attempts to so much as mount a bicycle without a helmet suffers immediate, bloody death, and always has. Playgounds such as the fantasy you have concocted are even more dangerous than that, so you clearly made that up, as well!


  • I’m not sure whether it would entirely solve the problem but no doubt it would be an improvement to use mats of a lighter color. Black absorbs heat; white reflects it. Lighter-colored mats will stay cooler.

  • It isn’t clear that you could make the mats a different color without changing the material or painting them and the paint would come off and blind you when you fall on them.

    And you still might trip on a white one when blinded by the glare.

    Perhaps a warning sign: All human activity carries some risk of injury. Abandon hope all ye…

  • But, why stop at playgrounds? What about regular old sidewalks? Kids play hopscotch and jump rope there, too. Some may not wear shoes. If you acknowledge a duty of care for a particular premises risk what’s stopping a clever plaintiff lawyer from arguing the same duty applies elsewhere?

    How about car interiors or children’s car seats? They must get hot to the touch after sitting in the sun all day when your car is parked. I remember getting burned by the metal seat belt buckle in my parents’ old Dodge Dart.

  • I am writing on the basis of pure conjecture, but I suspect that the “burns” here, if they exist, are localized, very minor, and amount to nothing more than a little redness and an annoying type of pain which disappears soon after one breaks contact with the mat.

    Of course the Complaints will say that “[t]he Plaintiff was rendered sick sore and lame and aflicted with permanent disabilities arising from and proximately caused by the negligence of the Defendant(s) and defects in the mats and their installation.”

    I’ve walked on blacktop surfaces barefoot at high noon in the summer in New York. No injury ensued, but it was uncomfortable and hurt slightly while I was Ghandi dancing (whoops not so politically correct) across the parking lot at the beach. In Alcapulco in the summertime, however, the pavement was hot enough so that I would not run barefoot across the street to the beach. Still, I don’t think I would have been injured if I did so.

    If the mats truly caused serious injury, i.e. partial or full thickness burns, with normal use, then someone is probably negligent and should be held monitarily liable. The law needs a threshold for the seriousness of injury that one may sue for.

  • If it is not known what the mats will be replaced with, how can anyone estimate the cost? That aside, $100k per playground seems a little steep (even taking into account the Soprano tax on NYC construction projects).

  • perfect solution: eliminate playgrounds

  • VMS:

    2nd degree burns. The parent claimed (on CNN video) that skin was hanging off the child’s feet when picked up seconds after the screaming started. Video of the feet showed lotsd of skin missing. It’s pretty gruesome.

    That being said, this is New York City. Wear shoes. Put shoes on your child.

  • !Warning! : All thermodynamic, Newtonian, and quantum mechanical laws may be in effect, both in regard to matter and non-matter.

    Next somebody will be suing GE for making microwave ovens.