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What needs to happen to keep kids safe at school in winter?

The winter months can be hard on children; they don't want to be stuck inside, but they're also at risk when they're outside. When a school has a playground on site, the staff may decide it's safe for the children to go out during recess. It's important for them to make sure that the kids get warmed up and don't go out when temperatures are too low. There are also dozens of things that can go wrong on a cold, icy playground that can be avoided with a little prevention.

First, the school needs to keep an eye on the temperature. Temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit can make rubber blacktops hard as rock, and any precipitation freezes. This means that playground equipment can be icy and slick.

Treating icy areas with salt helps break it down and prevent children from falling. A single hit to the head can be life-threatening if it leads to a serious traumatic brain injury, so taking care to thaw out or mark off icy areas is important.

Another thing to keep an eye on is the use of scarves. Children's scarves should be zipped into their jackets or removed completely. A scarf used on the playground can quickly become a noose, putting a child's life at risk.

Finally, know the signs of hypothermia. No child should have to be exposed to temperatures he or she can't handle; Look for dilated pupils, slowed breathing, a slow pulse, fatigue, confusion and other symptoms. The child should be taken inside immediately and medics need to be called. If this doesn't happen, it's possible that you could claim negligence against the school district.

Source: ISMINC, "Winter Playground Safety," accessed Jan. 05, 2017

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