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Open Access Research article

Safety standards and socioeconomic disparities in school playground injuries: a retrospective cohort study

Alison K Macpherson1*, Jennifer Jones2, Linda Rothman3, Colin Macarthur34 and Andrew W Howard3

Author Affiliations

1 York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto ON, Canada

2 McMaster University, 1280 Main Street, West Hamilton ON, Canada

3 The Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Avenue, Toronto ON, Canada

4 Bloorview Kids Rehab, 150 Kilgour Road, Toronto ON, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:542  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-542

Published: 8 September 2010



Playground injuries are fairly common and can require hospitalization and or surgery. Previous research has suggested that compliance with guidelines or standards can reduce the incidence of such injuries, and that poorer children are at increased risk of playground injuries.


The objective of this study was to determine the association between playground injury and school socioeconomic status before and after the upgrading of playground equipment to meet CSA guidelines.


Injury data were collected from January 1998-December 1999 and January 2004 - June 2007 for 374 elementary schools in Toronto, Canada. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of a program of playground assessment, upgrading, and replacement on school injury rates and socio-economic status. Injury rates were calculated for all injuries, injuries that did not occur on equipment, and injuries on play equipment. Poisson regression was performed to determine the relationship between injury rates and school socio-economic status.


Prior to upgrading the equipment there was a significant relationship between socio-economic status and equipment-related injuries with children at poorer schools being at increased risk (Relative risk: 1.52 [95% CI = 1.24-1.86]). After unsafe equipment was upgraded, the relationship between injury and SES decreased and was no longer significant (RR 1.13 [95% CI = 0.95-1.32]).


Improvements in playground equipment can result in an environment in which students from schools in poorer neighbourhoods are no longer at increased risk of injuries on play equipment.