Creating Chemistry

Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “Play is the highest form of research.”

Combine adventure and safety when designing playgrounds.

If that is the case, then our nation’s playgrounds are our most important laboratories.

Playgrounds offer children challenge, excitement, and a place for strenuous physical activity that health experts tell us is vitally important. Playgrounds are a place to test physical limits, interact socially in coordinated play, and learn first-hand the implications of the laws of physics.

Like most laboratories, playgrounds are risky places, but that is part of the fun.

Despite the potential for injury, children are readily attracted by the challenge and excitement of taking risks.

On average, there are 200,000 visits annually to hospital emergency rooms across the country by children injured on playgrounds. These numbers include both public and home playgrounds. Most of these injuries are associated with falls.

Our challenge, as designers, is to maximize the sense of adventure and risk, while minimizing the potential for actual injury. Experience and testing have shown that the two most important ways of accomplishing this goal are to:

1. Maintain proper fall zones in the immediate vicinity of equipment

2. Provide resilient surfacing that can break a fall without causing injury

Standard Of Care

There are no laws governing playground equipment and surfacing safety, but two documents have come to represent the “standard of care” for playground safety in the United States.

The first is a federal guideline prepared for the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), titled Handbook for Public Playground Safety; the second is the Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use, published by the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) Playground Safety Standard F1487.

Another testing protocol, ASTM F1292, Standard Specification for Impact Attenuation of Surface Systems Under and Around Playground Equipment has become the national standard for testing impact attenuation of playground surfacing materials.

A trade organization representing playground and surfacing manufacturers–the International Play Equipment Manufacturer’s Association (IPEMA)–provides third-party testing of equipment to ensure it meets the requirements of the documents identified above.

Playground fun is all about taking risks -- safely.

There is a truly broad range of play equipment that can be selected and combined to create unique play experiences for almost any situation. Designers and administrators limit exposure to risk of litigation by ensuring playground equipment is 100-percent IPEMA certified.

There is playground equipment that has been in use for some time, which experience has shown should be avoided due to safety concerns. Some examples include:

• Swinging exercise rings or trapeze bars

• Multiple-occupancy swings

• Spinning equipment without speed governors

• Swings attached to composite play structures

• Ropes or cables not affixed at both ends

• Heavy swings (made of metal or wood)

• Trampolines

Maintain Fall Zones And Clear Zones

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Related posts:

  1. Creating Chemistry
  2. Playground Safety Is No Accident
  3. A Playground For All
  4. High-Frequency Playground Inspections
  5. Safe Play
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