BITCO Insurance Companies
Release Date: April 21, 2016
The updated Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Handbook for Public Playground Safety (Handbook), publication #325, is an excellent guide for owners and operators of public play environments. The CPSC is an independent agency within the United States Federal Government with the authority to inform the public of current product safety performance information and recommended practices. The CPSC first published their guidelines for public playgrounds in 1981 and have updated their publication several times over the past 25 years, most recently in December 2015.
During the past 35 years, innovations in technology have led to new playground equipment and surfacing practices. Voluntary standards for equipment and impact attenuation for protective surfacing have evolved. The 2015 edition of the Handbook, the most recent version, still discusses common materials, but also covers new surfacing systems that are specifically designed and tested to comply with ASTM F1292 Standard Specification for Impact Attenuation of Surfacing Materials Within the Use Zone of Playground Equipment, the voluntary standard for measuring impact attenuation of surfacing. Maintaining that focus, Section 2.4 of the Handbook identifies shredded/recycled rubber mulch as an “appropriate surfacing” product, given that this product can meet the impact attenuation requirements of ASTM F1292, as long as minimum depths of the material are maintained, as specified in Table 2 of Section 2.5. This notation is solely focused on the impact attenuation to minimize serious head injuries, and not on other aspects that may pose other risks, such as chemical exposure or ingestion.
The recommendations in the Handbook are focused on playground-related injuries and mechanical mechanisms of injury; falls from playground equipment have remained the largest single hazard pattern associated with playground use. Maintaining the focus on falls, the Handbook’s surfacing recommendations are based on the surfacing material’s energy absorbing effectiveness. The CPSC estimates that in recent years, there were more than 200,000 injuries annually on public playgrounds across the country that required emergency room treatment. By following the recommended guidelines in the Handbook, users can create safer playground environments for all children and contribute to the reduction of playground-related deaths and injuries.
The Handbook is intended for use by childcare personnel, school officials, parks and recreation personnel, equipment purchasers and installers, playground designers, and any other members of the public (e.g., parents and school groups) concerned with public playground safety and interested in evaluating their respective playgrounds. Inadequate maintenance of equipment has resulted in injuries on playgrounds. Because the safety of playground equipment and its suitability for use depend on good inspection and maintenance, the CPSC recommends that the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions and recommended inspection schedules be strictly followed. If manufacturer’s recommendations are not available, a maintenance schedule should be developed based on actual or anticipated playground use. Frequently used playgrounds will require more frequent inspections and maintenance.
Loose-fill surfacing materials require special maintenance. High-use public playgrounds, such as child care centers and schools, should be checked frequently to ensure surfacing has not displaced significantly, particularly in areas of the playground most subject to displacement (e.g., under swings and slide exits). This can be facilitated by marking ideal surfacing depths on equipment posts. The CPSC recommends that displaced loose-fill surfacing should be raked back into proper place so that a constant depth is maintained throughout the playground. Impact attenuating mats placed in high-traffic areas, such as under swings and at slide exits, can significantly reduce displacement. They should be installed below or level with surfacing so as not to be a tripping hazard.
This publication on public playground safety is available as a free PDF download at http://www.cpsc.gov//PageFiles/122149/325.pdf.
The CPSC also offers many other publications regarding Playground Safety on their Playground Publication website at http://www.cpsc.gov/en/Safety-Education/Safety-Guides/Sports-Fitness-and-Recreation/Playground-Safety/.
The information contained in this publication was obtained from sources believed to be reliable. ISO Services, Inc., its companies and employees make no guarantee of results and assume no liability in connection with either the information herein contained or the safety suggestions herein made. Moreover, it cannot be assumed that every acceptable safety procedure is contained herein or that abnormal or unusual circumstances may not warrant or require further or additional procedure.