There are a lot of available playground equipment options, with more being created all the time, and what's most important is to know which are safe and age appropriate for the intended target age(s) of children likely to play on it.
With each type of playground equipment, there are certain safety parameters, guidelines and requirements, particularly when it comes to publicly accessible playgrounds ranging from public parks and local schools, to places of worship such as churches, synagogues, mosques, and any other location where it is likely a child might gain access. Many forms of playground equipment people grew up with are no longer considered safe, due to the serious injuries resulting from their use, and are no longer available or considered acceptable.
It all starts with playground planning and determining what age range will be utilizing the play equipment, whether it's a good idea to have separate playgrounds for different age groups, selecting age appropriate equipment for the available area with proper safety zones, selecting and installing recommended safety surfacing, and the overall scheduled inspection and maintenance of the entire playground equipment and surfacing.
Playground equipment generally falls into categories based on their characteristics and intended use, such as stationary equipment of less than 30" height (balance beam, etc.), the same of 30" or higher (ladders, steps, landings, activity centers, Climbing elements, etc.) , as well as whether there is motion involved (such as Slides). There are also playground equipment elements that involve movement (Swings, Teeter totters, etc.), and each have different Safety zone parameters and considerations.
Beyond the selection of the best playground equipment and surfacing for your requirements, different types of equipment construction and safety surfaces carry with them different methods of recommended maintenance that has to be implemented. Without this ongoing maintenance being performed, even the best designed playground, equipment and surfacing can fail to provide the necessary safety, longevity and ongoing functionality as intended.
Playgrounds where the owner / operator has not properly planned for necessary maintenance and upkeep could create an unsafe enivoronment for children, simply due to lack of proper attention and care. This more common in impoverished area without the financial resources required, and this could be a local community, day care, private school or place of worship. Hopefully the local public schools maintain their playgrounds to adhere to local laws and ordinances mandating applicable safety standards, yet many don't do it properly.