Why Playground Surfacing Standards Exist
While public playgrounds are a wonderful and common way to offer a public place for children and students to play and have fun, the very nature of playgrounds poses the risk of injuries.
Each year in the United States, emergency departments treat more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries.
A majority of injuries result from falls; therefore, the key to preventing playground injuries is using appropriate and safe surfacing to protect against fall-related injuries. That’s why surfacing requirements were established – to prevent serious head and body injuries on playgrounds.
How are playground surfacing standards created?
ASTM International is an organization long responsible for establishing guidelines and requirements, called ASTM standards, to protect and improve the lives of millions across the globe. They address many different industries and sectors, including public playgrounds.
ASTM’s committees of stakeholders have worked together to develop the ASTM standards to ensure safe playgrounds for all children and communities.
Who enforces playground surfacing standards?
While ASTM creates the playground surfacing standards, they are not responsible for enforcing them. Often, insurance companies require communities, municipalities, and school districts to provide compliance documentation. Since insurance companies have to pay in the case of litigation, they often require public playground owners to comply with ASTM standards.
What happens when you don’t comply with ASTM playground surfacing standards?
1. Risk of Playground Injuries
About 45% of playground-related injuries are severe–fractures, internal injuries, concussions, dislocations, and amputations.
The ASTM standards for public playground surfacing are created and measured based on preventing life-threatening head injuries and other severe injuries with long-term repercussions. If you don’t comply with the requirements, you are putting children at risk of potentially serious injuries.
2. Litigation Liability
With such a high probability of playground injuries, you will most likely encounter litigation or a legal action. It’s critical that your organization is prepared, and how you do that is:
- Complying with the ASTM surfacing standards
- Documenting all your playground surfacing work
Below we discuss the ASTM surfacing standards you need to follow and document. Furthermore, we recommend recording all surfacing maintenance and work to prove compliance.
If you partner with a playground company, ask them how they record all completed work and compliance verification.
At SafetyFirst Playground Maintenance, we document everything for our clients, so when they encounter litigation, we have everything on file to show compliance and mitigate risk.
The 4 Surfacing ASTM Standards for Public Playgrounds You Need to Know
1. ASTM 1292: Playground Surfacing Impact Attenuation
ASTM F1292: Standard Specification for Impact Attenuation of Surfacing Materials Within the Use Zone of Playground Equipment
ASTM 1292 measures the playground surfacing’s softness and the risk of life-threatening head injuries at various fall heights. It applies to all surfacing material, we use two values HIC (head injury criterion) and GMAX (unit of measurement that quantifies the hardness of a surface). HIC must be below 1,000 and GMAX under 200 at the fall height of playground surfacing is certified for.
When working with a playground surfacing vendor or outlining your request for proposal (RFP), require the vendor to provide documentation that their surfacing is ASTM 1292 certified.
If you want to assess your existing playground surfacing for ASTM 1292, you can work with a company to conduct an on-site evaluation. Our partner, IEA, offers playground surfacing field testing to determine if your surfacing meets impact attenuation requirements.
2. ASTM 1951: Playground Surfacing ADA Accessibility
ASTM F1951-21: Standard Specification for Determination of Accessibility of Surface Systems Under and Around Playground Equipment
ASTM 1951 is the only ASTM standard for public playgrounds that is law because it was adapted into the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Because of this, civil rights organizations can file complaints if schools, parks, or organizations don’t comply with ASTM 1951.
While adhering to playground ADA guidelines safeguards you against costly legal consequences, it is also the right thing to do. An inclusive playground allows all children to participate in the fun!
All playground surfacing vendors and manufacturers should provide documentation that their surfacing complies with ASTM 1951.
3. ASTM Standards for Specific Playground Surfacing
Each surfacing type has its own ASTM standard that specifies requirements unique to the material, such as the installation process, particle size, ability to drain, and more.
Engineered Wood Fiber: ASTM 2075
ASTM F2075-20: Standard Specification for Engineered Wood Fiber for Use as a Playground Safety Surface Under and Around Playground Equipment
ASTM 2075 was developed because manufacturers used to grind up entire wood pallets, including the nails, and use the product as playground surfacing. As you can guess, this created hazardous playground conditions.
Our Nature’sPlus Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF) not only complies with ASTM 2075, but takes it a step further. We hold our EWF surfacing to a higher safety and durability standard, including:
- Chain of custody – We transport Nature’sPlus EWF in trucks only used to haul EWF. Some vendors contaminate their surfacing by using trucks that carry other material, such as garbage.
- Production process – We only use live stem wood to create our EWF, while other vendors use the full tree, including dirt, leaves, and bark, causing early decay and mold.
- Type of tree – Our EWF is made from 100% Tamarack tree, which is naturally resistant to mold and decay, for a long-lasting surfacing option.
Other surfacing ASTM standards to know include:
Poured-In-Place: ASTM 2479
ASTM F2479-12 (2017): Standard Guide for Specification, Purchase, Installation and Maintenance of Poured-In-Place Playground Surfacing
Turf: ASTM 1551
ASTM F1551-09 (2017): Standard Test Methods for Comprehensive Characterization of Synthetic Turf Playing Surfaces and Materials
Loose-Fill Rubber: ASTM 3012
ASTM F3012-22: Standard Specification for Loose-Fill Rubber for Use as a Playground Safety Surface under and around Playground Equipment
4. IPEMA Playground Surfacing Certification
IPEMA is an annual certification program that playground surfacing manufacturers and vendors must undergo. While a surfacing manufacturer only needs to be ASTM certified once, the IPEMA certification ensures they maintain the safety standards year after year.
As with ASTM, require your vendor to provide their IPEMA playground surfacing certification for the most recent year.
Schedule Your Free, On-Site Surfacing Consultation
Surfacing is critical to offering a safe playground experience while protecting your organization against inevitable legal actions. But if your playground complies with the ASTM and IPEMA requirements and is properly documented, you’ll mitigate your risk of costly litigation.
Our team at SafetyFirst Playground Maintenance offers comprehensive playground surfing services to protect children and your organization.
We serve school districts, parks and municipalities, and architects and engineers in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa.