Author: Austin Stanfel
Safety in the playground environment is one of the most important forms of health and safety going. Not only is it important to make sure that the equipment being used is at a high standard but the surfaces must also meet requirements. The last thing anybody needs is an accident at a playground because it very serious and a very high profile form of accident.
To get the best safety from playground surfaces measuring the impact attenuate has to be accurately measured. If the impact measurement is even a few millimeters out then it can have catastrophic results further down the line and so these measures are important to follow at all times. As playing surfaces are designed purely to protect the user from serious injury, there are certain rules and procedures that need to be followed in order to keep the safety levels as high as possible.
Using a prescribed test device is imperative when ensuring the safety of those using the playground equipment. These devices measure the impact of an item on the surface at a particular height and the results are then compared to the pass/fail specification which allows the owner to lower the height of any equipment they were planning on placing. There are two levels that the impact needs to not exceed in order for it to be deemed safe. These are the g level, which should not exceed 200, and the HIC (Head Injury Criteria) level, which should not exceed 1000.
Although testing the surfaces when they are placed is very important it is not the end of the process as formal testing must also take place. These field tests are undertaken by an independent auditor and must comply with the ASTM F1292 Standard. This standard was first published in 1991 and is used to test all impact surfaces. This test is usually requires three laboratory tests that have a controlled temperature however this is not easy in the field so another test has been designed to test surfaces in the field. For this to be implemented the designated auditor must test the same spot three times to ensure a thorough result. Not only must it be tested three times but the area of the surface that seems to have most wear and tear must be the spot that is tested as it indicates the worst spot in the area.
Of course there is room for improvement when it comes to these tests as owners of the play area would like to test the surface material before it is put down. While this would reduce the initial problems of having to test a recently laid surface there would still be the need for retesting as the surface will deteriorate through everyday use. Overall the use of these tests is vitally important and can significantly reduce the rate of serious injury to children using the play equipment.