McDonald’s Corp. will pay a $4-million fine for failing to report that hundreds of children suffered injuries playing on its Big Mac Climber jungle gyms, federal regulators said Monday.
More than 400 children were hurt on the equipment, 100 of them suffering broken bones, concussions or skull fractures, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission officials said. The fine is among the largest the CPSC has ever received, agency Chairwomen Ann Brown said.
“This was the second time McDonald’s failed to report unsafe playground equipment to the government,” Brown said. “I’m determined that companies that make commitments to the CPSC must keep them.”
After the commission accused McDonald’s of not reporting injuries on its Tug-N-Turn merry-go-rounds, the world’s largest fast-food chain promised in 1995 to notify the agency of other equipment defects and pledged $5 million to a safety campaign.
As part of Monday’s agreement, McDonald’s will report all playground injuries as they happen to the CPSC and will remove other obsolete equipment that fails to meet federal safety guidelines, Brown said.
McDonald’s executives said their restaurants already have upgraded to plastic or cushioned play equipment, a transition underway long before the CPSC’s action. About 5,000 of the chain’s 13,000 U.S. locations have play areas.
“The jungle gym was an old piece well on its way to extinction,” said McDonald’s spokesman Walt Riker, from the chain headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill. “We have very high safety standards at our current play lands.”
The chain agreed to the fine to settle what Riker termed “a bureaucratic dispute about reporting requirements.”
Big Mac jungle gyms were fixtures in the play areas adjacent to McDonald’s restaurants in the 1970s and 1980s. Children clambered up ladders leading up a tube from the ground, then played between two giant metal hamburger buns.
“The gaps in the ladders were big enough for kids to fall through,” said Jeff Bromme, the commission’s general counsel.
The chain removed the last 190 Big Mac Climbers from its play areas in 1997, Bromme said. That was when the CPSC opened its investigation into climber injuries, prompted by consumer complaints and lawsuits, he said.
The CPSC updated its guidelines for public playgrounds two years ago, recommending softer surfacing materials and suggesting safer measurements and angles for all types of equipment.