The March 2, 2009 article “New National Study Emphasizes Need for Tree House Safety Standards” by the Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP, within The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A.), states, “Although building and playing in tree houses is widely considered a rite of passage for children, it can unfortunately lead to serious injury.”
Tree houses (or treehouses, tree forts) are small buildings constructed within branches of trees, which are often used by children for play. Tree houses are built around the world, some for the playing of children but others for the living of adults and children. In both cases, few safety laws and regulations have been enacted for their construction and use.
The researchers for this study used data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), within the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The study found that the most frequently occurring accidents caused when children play in tree houses are fractures (in 37% of the cases), bruises (20%), and cuts to the upper body (20%). On average, about 2,800 children are forced to go to emergency rooms each year in the United States for injuries sustained in tree house accidents.
The researchers, lead by Lara B. McKenzie (of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital), published their results in the March issue of the Journal of Academic Emergency Medicine.
Dr. McKenzie (Ohio State University) states, “The most serious tree house-related injuries occurred when children fell from great heights and onto hard, non-impact-absorbing surfaces. The odds of a child requiring hospitalization tripled if the fall was from higher than 10 feet, and boys and older children were the most likely to sustain falls from these heights.”
She states that studies of children playing in playgrounds led to national safety standards and regulations with respect to their construction, specifically height and surface type.
Page two discusses national standards, along with specific safety features that should be used with tree houses.