Heather Olsen: Hi, I am Heather Olsen and I am part of the team at the National Program for Playground Safety. Today I am discussing the basics of surfacing materials under in and round playground equipment. According to the U.
S. Consumer Product Safety Commission statistics, each year over 200,000 playground injuries requiring emergency room visits occur each year.
Statistics indicate that nearly 70% of all playground injuries are related to falls to the surface. Studies have also found that a majority of playgrounds have unsafe surfaces. Thus an important aspect of reducing playground injuries is to provide a cushioned surface, beneath and around the equipment, at depths appropriate to equipment height.
Children will climb, and if they fall, you want to make sure that ground below will cushion them. Therefore, it is very important to have the right surfacing to comfort their fall and prevent injuries. There is no perfect playground surface. Asphalt, dirt, concrete, and grass are not acceptable playground surfaces. If a child falls, they will not land on a safe surface, which increases the risk of injury.
Loose-fill materials maintain at 12 inches such as, engineered wood fiber, rubber, mulch, and sand are appropriate surface material to cushion a fall. Unitary materials are generally, rubber mats, or tiles, or a combination of energy absorbing materials held in place by a binder that make an important place at the playground site and then cured to form a unitary shock absorbing surface.
Parents and other adults need to be proactive regarding the provision of appropriate surface at adequate depths. When selecting surface materials for under the playground structure, consider accessibility environment, and surface maintenance. All playgrounds need to have an accessible route to the equipment; this route needs to be firm, stable, and slip resistant.
Be sure to consider all weather conditions, climatic conditions can affect the surface material. Remember, the sun not only heats the equipment, but may make some surface materials hot. Insects or other animals maybe attracted to certain types of material. Maintenance cost and requirements may vary from location to location. Loose fill material will require higher maintenance cost.
Drainage is also important, as the surface is a foundation of all play areas. Surfacing materials should be placed in the area under and around the entire playground. These places are known as Use Zones. For Stationary Equipment there should be 6 feet around all sides, Use Zone for swings are twice the height of a swing beam in the front and in the back.
So for example, if a swing beam is 6 feet high then the Use Zone should be 12 feet in front and 12 feet in the back. There are lots of different varieties of safe surfacing. If you buy the right surfacing, maintain it in the correct way and put it in all the proper locations, it will prevent a lot of serious injuries. Good luck and stay safe!