Playground Surfaces
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PLAYGROUND SURFACES

When choosing an appropriate surfacing for your community playground, looks can be deceiving. While the beautiful colors of the poured-in-place rubber matting may seem attractive, it is not the best fall surface. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission accepts the following as a playground fall surface when installed to the correct depth:

  1. Wood mulch
  2. Double shredded bark mulch
  3. Uniform wood chips
  4. Shredded rubber loose fill
  5. Fine sand
  6. Course sand
  7. Fine gravel
  8. Medium gravel
Recycled Products. Items 1 to 4 are all recycled products, as are the rubber mat products. The above eight items are in the order in which they are rated for fall attenuation. The poured-in-place matting and stationary rubber mats have been reported to have a higher incidence of broken bones.

Maintenance. All eight materials listed above are cheaper and easier to maintain than poured-in-place matting and stationary rubber mats, especially the wood products. Whereas the sand and gravel are attractive to animals as a giant litter box, the wood is not. When the wood degrades, it turns to mulch. It can be placed in your landscape areas rather than purchasing mulch. The sand and rubber products have special requirements which add to the overall cost of the replacement. Maintenance specifications for playgrounds include some of the following:

  1. Keep the area around the equipment free and clear from all objects and materials that could injure participants. Visual area checks around the play equipment for objects and materials that could potentially cause injury should be conducted at least (3) times weekly in summer and one time (1) per week in the winter.

  2. Inspect the equipment for stability and exposed footings, and tighten all bolts and nuts. Inspections should be conducted monthly, and fasteners should be tightened every two (2) months or as needed.

  3. Inspect all equipment for rust and touch-up paint every six (6) months or as necessary.

  4. Wipe down all equipment with warm water and soap solution once per week or as needed.

  5. Ensure that all matting materials are free of dirt and debris. Clean as necessary.

  6. Monitor surface compaction.

Certified Inspector. California playground safety regulations require that a Certified Playground Safety Inspector inspect and conduct a safety audit of all playgrounds by October 1, 2000. Then, the operators/owners were required to implement changes in the design, installation, inspection, maintenance and supervision of its playgrounds that are identified by the Inspector as necessary to comply with the requirements established in the regulations. (See California Park & Recreation Society website for more information.)

Installation of Equipment. State regulations also require that anyone who installs playground equipment must have the equipment installed under the direct supervision of the manufacturer, or a Certified Playground Safety Inspector must inspect the equipment prior to use. In addition, you will also need to have a regularly-scheduled safety inspection.

Training. Regulations also require that owners/operators train their personnel in the design, installation, and maintenance of their playground equipment by ensuring that the personnel have read and understood the requirements established by the regulations before such personnel participate in the design, installation or maintenance of the playground.

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Adams Stirling PLC