Playground safety mat overheating, cont’d

As we noted around this time last summer, 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.” Now the city is raising eyebrows in one such lawsuit by countersuing the grandmother of a toddler (at the time) burned on a mat. [WCBS via Reddit] On defendants’ tactic of dragging all possibly negligent parties into a suit, see Aug. 4.


  • It’s a good time to note that not only was it lawsuits that forced the city to put mats under the monkey bars, but that those mats have saved countless kids from serious injuries.

  • And what if you think those injuries are a good thing in the long term? Kids need to learn to be careful.

    Lots of kids getting bruises, a few getting broken bones and a very few deaths seems like a reasonable price in order to teach children such valuable lessons. Instead we now wrap kids in bouncy suits so they can’t possibly get scraped until they are teenagers, then we set them loose with bigger toys that can easily hurt others and not just themselves.

  • It should not have taken a genius to know that black mats get hot in the summer. Bark or sand or (heavens) gravel works quite well, and has for many years. Stuff happens, get a helmet.

  • We played on concrete and asphalt when I was a kid, and I grew up JUST FINE! I walked by my old elementary school when I was back in NY a few months ago, and noticed that they cut the row of iron spikes off the top of the iron fence that surrounds the playground. I guess it was an “impalement” danger….

  • Robert, I grew up in the Bronx in the 1950’s and I can vouch for what you are saying. Somehow I managed to survive my childhood and also all of my friends made it to adulthood. Image that. By the way, when I went to the beach on a very hot day the sand just off of the boardwalk was burning hot. You had to run to the water to avoid getting burned (or wear shoes!). Who should I have sued?

  • And what if you think those injuries are a good thing in the long term? Kids need to learn to be careful.

    Oddly enough, I think you would have a different opinion if it was your kid in the wheelchair for life.

    We played on concrete and asphalt when I was a kid, and I grew up JUST FINE!

    Yep, most did. And its also true that most people that drove Pintos were never burned to death.

  • Why don’t they paint ’em white – like they’re doing to the roofs in CA? Besides, I’ll be all those black mats contribute to global warming, anyway…

  • Back when I was a kid, the “safe” surfaces were gravel with a few broken whisky bottles mixed in. The rest were concrtete. A little danger, a little Darwinism mixed in with life is not a particularly bad thing.

    My wife thinks the grandma should be flogged for letting the little one run around barefooted. If she had run across the asphalt, she would have fried her feet, as well. I’ve seen eggs fried on sun-heated asphalt surfaces.

  • There is legitimate discussion about how protected children at playgrounds should be, but there is a big difference between a surface that is uncomfortable or might cause burning over time and one that burns so quickly that brief contact can cause significant injury. I’m normally pretty defense oriented, as I am employed full-time defending a public entity, and many of the claims are “you should have protected me from my own stupidity” claims. However, it is absolutely foreseeable that small children, even well-supervised ones, will come into contact with the ground in a child’s playground. Even wearing shoes, young children will fall or put their hands down. From the news stories, it seems the surface is getting to be over 160 degrees. At that temperature, brief contact can cause significant injury. I might feel differently if the signs said the playground was closed when the outside temperature reached a certain level. I don’t think a warning to wear shoes would indicate to a reasonable person that brief contact with the playground surface may cause third degree burns.

    I would be interested in listening in on the jury’s reaction to the city arguing, in essence, that a responsible adult would have put the child in long sleeves, long pants, shoes, gloves, and a ski mask (all necessary if a young child is not to have skin to ground contact) before allowing her to play in the park on a sunny day.

  • I’m reluctant to dismiss the City’s liability in this case. Liability is a big part of what has driven the (admittedly expensive) innovation from boiling hot galvanized slides to nice plastic and rubber-coated metal play equipment. If you ran a business that employed inherently dangerous equipment for small children to play on, wouldn’t you budget to keep the equipment up to date with current industry safety specs?