Playground Advisory

1 PLAYGROUND ADVISORY February 2011 Canadian Playground Advisory Inc. Volume 4, Issue 1 The Sustainable Playground Protective Surface The owner/operator of the playground faces a complicated set of requirements in the installation and ongoing manage- ment of the playground surface assets at the time of specifi- cation, purchase, installation and throughout its entire life. Some of the requirements will have liability concerns; others will have civil rights considerations, and every choice goes through a decision blender of capital vs. maintenance budg- ets and resources. Ultimately, for the entire length of time that the playground is open to the public, all of the standards and laws must be met. Failure my result in injury to a child, financial penalties for a liability claim or regulatory penalties for non- compliance. The owner/operator may not have the expertise; however they are ultimately responsible for the outcome. In many cases they turn to consultants and suppliers as they are pre- sumably in possession of specialized knowledge related to the sustainable playground surface that is durable and least cost. Most consultants and manufacturers do not have a complete understanding of the performance requirements of the play- ground surfaces and either fail to write appropriate specifica- tions or engineer their projects to create the sustainable playground protective surface. The purpose of this paper is to explore the standards, laws and present best practices to ensure compliance. There will also be a discussion of some of the materials that have been used in surfacing playgrounds and how their designs lead or fail to provide sustainability. Protection from Injury The first role of the playground surface is protection of chil- dren from life-threatening head injuries & a reduction of the severity or all other injuries in the event of a fall. This surface is, according to ASTM F1292, to attenuate the impact forces on an object falling from a drop height determined by the owner/operator prior to purchase. The pass/fail values are that the Gmax shall not exceed 200 and the HIC shall not ex- ceed 1000. Lower values of either Gmax or HIC do reduce the risk of a life-threatening injury as well as the severity of any other potential impact related injury. The ASTM F1292 re- quires that all surfacing suppliers will provide a not older than 5 year test for surface materials that are “identical in design, materials, components, thickness and manufacture as the in- stalled playground surface.” The requirement of the ADAAG is that the accessible route must comply with ASTM F1292 (1008.2.6.2) when the accessible route is within the play struc- ture use zone as defined by ASTM F1487. Compliance with ASTM F1292 is also a legal requirement with- in a number of States and Provinces through legislation gov- erning Child Care, Health and Safety, Building Codes, etc. This requires the 3 temperature laboratory certificate and ongoing field testing to confirm compliance. In some jurisdictions where surfacing manufacturers have not performed the labor- atory testing, a field test performed at the time of installation and ongoing passing of field testing is allowed. Compliance with ADA/ABA and the AODA It must be understood that these requirements only apply to the section of the playground surface that is considered to be the accessible route, which is defined in the relevant law. Alt- hough many owners select a surface to meet the accessibility