Last Thursday morning, I was behind a sea of yellow caterpillars. All of them moving in several different directions with heads bopping up and down inside. School is has started…I was reminded. At the next traffic light, I begin to drift away to an article about a teacher who severely damaged her hand in a gate at school. I thought that was strange because school fencing is there to keep our kids safe and therefore must be safe.
Fencing at schools must first be safe to keep our kids safe. Fencing is designed to form a barrier between what we want to keep in and what we may want to keep out. What better place to have alot of fencing than at a school where we want to keep our kids in and keep strangers away. That makes sense barring the fencing does not poise hazards. Below are several things that you should look for at your children’s school regarding the fencing they play in and around every day.
• Twisted sharp points on the top (salvages). Chain link is available with the ends knuckled over on both the top and bottom. It is also available with one or both ends having twisted sharp barbs. Sometimes this type of end treatment, salvage, gets specified and installed because the designer borrowed the specification from a standard security fence design thinking he was simply keeping the kids secure and safe and not knowing the typical hazards of a security fence.
• Icicles, rough finish to the chain link. Not the frozen kind but the ones you find on hot dipped galvanized chain link fence. When you run your hands across the face of the chain link, it will leave slight tears in the skin with some resulting in bleeding. Schools should only use pregalvanized chain link fabric that is free from the icicles formed during the dipping of the fabric in the hot dipped process. This happens because most designers are not familiar with chain link fabric characteristics and principles.
• Pinch points. Every gate operation presents some form of pinch point. Thus, every gate should include signage that warns everyone that there is a potential hazard. This alerts staff to be proactive in warning and educating children about the safe operation of gates and doors.
• Holes under the fence fabric. We are not concerned about our children making a break. We simply do not want them to get their limbs under the fabric during play. Kids are wearing open toed shoes, flip-flops and sandals to school. Regardless of the salvage type mentioned before, if a child gets his foot under the fabric and pulls it back, it will injure the child. We want to make sure that there are no holes under the chain link where a child may get caught.
• A safe distance. School staff should be educating our children to keep a safe distance from any fence. Chain link fence has a lot of parts. Most of these have an edge or point that could injure a someone. We should not see our children crawling on or over the fencing.