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Showing posts from 2009

Profit Motive Scales Down Today’s Playground Equipment

Safety and design experts had a lot to say about the latest generation of playground equipment at a recent National Recreation and Parks (NRPA) trade show in Salt Lake City. A common observation was that manufacturers not only are cutting back by using cheaper materials, but they also are reducing the overall size of products such as slides and climbing structures.

This is being done simply to reduce overhead costs, instead of providing playgrounds with the best possible products. The unfortunate end result here is a less exciting and enjoyable playground experience for today’s generation of youngsters, who as it is spend far too much time indoors in front of screens within walking distance of the refrigerator. With the considerable rise in childhood obesity and health problems compared to generations past, playground activities and equipment should be as fun as appealing ever, not scaled down and cut back.

Sure, today’s playground gear may be softer and significantly safer, but can…

Surfacing Products Wear Out Quickly, Fail Safety Tests & The "Low-Bidder"

There’s this unfortunate "low bidder" mentality in the playground equipment and surfacing industry. Far too often, manufacturers cut corners and don’t deliver quality, lasting products, especially surfacing materials.

Simply put, many surfacing companies do not use the highest quality polyurethanes in rubber-based materials. So for example, the result is that the top layer of an EPDM surface, which is supposed to be 3/8 of an inch in thickness, ends up at 1/4-inch after only about a year. This will downgrade the surface’s ability to cut down the force of impact if a child falls, an obvious safety concern.

Similar corner-cutting also goes on with construction contractors who lay playground foundations and equipment footings, which aren’t poured according to specification requirements with a minimal amount of concrete. This results in unstable playground equipment after not much time in use.

SBR tiles are another extremely noticeable example of the “low bidder” phenomenon. S…

Clothing and Sun Exposure: Important Keys to Safe Outdoor Activities

Sensible clothing is an essential part of playground safety. Bare feet are always a no-no, as is extensive sun exposure.

Toward limiting sun exposure, the National Program for Playground Safety advises parents and child care providers to avoid scheduling outdoor activities during hours of peak sun intensity, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. standard time. “If outdoor activities during these peak times are unavoidable, encourage the use of protective clothing and sunglasses, suggest playing in shaded areas, and, of course, always use sunscreen,” the organization states on its website.

The NPPS also supplies a “Quick Tips” list:

• Monitor the daily UV Index forecasts for your area (go to or look in newspapers) and plan indoor activities on days of high sun intensity.

• Teach children how to identify and find good sources of shade.

• Keep infants and small children in the shade when outdoors.

• Plan trips to parks and places where adequate shade is available.

• Plant trees that provide max…

Happy Halloween! Safety Tips for Trick-or-Treaters and Parents

Happy Halloween! Safety Tips for Trick-or-Treaters and Parents

Halloween is an all-time favorite holiday of kids, young and old. The following are tried and true suggestions for making sure this fun-filled night stays happy and safe.

Naturally, supervision is the primary way to make sure things stay safe and enjoyable. A responsible adult or teenager should always accompany groups of young, eager trick-or-treaters. Just like on playgrounds, adult supervision is key.
While much of this Halloween safety advice falls handily into the “common sense” category, the following set of safety tips courtesy of the American Association of Pediatrics will at least confirm for mindful parents effective ways to ensure a safe and memorable holiday for all:
Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement or contact with flame.
Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and Trick…

Playground Surfaces: Beware Bonded Loose-Fill

Don't Waste Your Money on Trowelled-Down Bonded Loose-Fill Rubber

So it seems newly created “bonded loose-fill” -- loose-fill rubber mulch adhered by polyurethane -- is gaining ground when it comes to surfacing playgrounds. While it’s ostensibly an inexpensive alternative to the standard poured-in-place, tile or mat systems, it doesn’t carry the same durability of these other, more time-tested surfaces.

For playgrounds, bonded loose-fill may be an interesting, relatively inexpensive alternative to traditional loose-fill materials such as wood chips, sand or gravel. But there’s no way it can withstand regular, heavy foot traffic over time.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission broadly holds that surfaces around playground equipment should have at least 12 inches of “wood chips, mulch, sand, or pea gravel, or are mats made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials.” This is to account for the amount of impact absorption necessary to reduce the risk of serious injury result…

Indoor Mall Playground Safety - Are Your Kids Safe?

Indoor Playgrounds - Are They Safe?
Well, it's that time of year again with school starting, summer is over, the weather is changing, and many of your children's activities are beginning to move indoors again. It's time for concerned parents to decide where your kids are going to be able to play safely. As it does every year, the number of children playing at the local indoor playground increases dramatically.

With this increase in activity, comes an increase in our awareness of the safety of these indoor playgrounds; are they really the safest place for our children to be playing? There is no traffic to worry about, score one for the indoor playground. But are there other areas of concern that we may be overlooking? Here are a few areas of indoor playground safety you want to look at before you allow your child to participate.

Indoor Playgrounds - Breeding Grounds for Bacteria?
One huge issue of indoor mall playground safety is the enclosed environment itself. Within any encl…

Consensus Lacking on Playground Supervision Ratios

It’s clear that adult supervision is the best way to prevent mishaps on playgrounds, whether they be school yards, back yards, parks or wherever groups of children gather to play. But an important aspect of this, narrowing down a viable ratio of adult supervisors to children, remains elusive.

The answer, of course, varies depending on the dimensions and specific characteristics of a playground, the age range and number of children present, as well as legal and administrative factors.

So the key question remains, how many adult supervisors should be present? And while there’s far from a consensus or clearly defined mandate, playground supervision is definitely an active, ongoing topic of discussion in the realms of tort lawyers, government agencies, educators and the broader playground safety community.

Columbia, South Carolina law firm Duff, White & Turner provides a detailed recommendation: “In the area of supervision, school districts should establish an appropriate adult to stud…

Top 5 Safety Tips for Safe Fun to Teach your Child

We all know that time of year when summer is winding down and we are all getting ready to send our little ones back to school. Kids will be playing with other kids on school and community playgrounds not always with your supervision. So it’s vital to make our kids aware of some hidden dangers on the playground.

Educating our children on some basics that can be easily taught and implemented and goes a long way in protecting them.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, over 200,000 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms across the United States. About 60% percent are from falls from playground equipment.

Approximately 156,040 (75.8 percent) of the injuries occurred on equipment designed for public use, 46,930 (22.8 percent) occurred on equipment designed for home use, and 2,880 (1.4 percent) occurred on homemade equipment (primarily rope swings).
It is important to take some simple precautions to increase the overall safety of a child and further the safe play enviro…

Surfacing Companies: "The Minimum Test"

I know it is sometimes tough to locate a qualified safety surfacing provider.
When selecting a full service playground environment provider, be sure that they meet
“The Minimum Test”:

Company Length of Service 15-20 yearsIPEMA Certified (Int. Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association)Factory Direct InstallationASTM 1292-04 (Impact Attenuation)ASTM F-1951 (Wheel Chair Accessibility)GSA Approved (General Services Administration)ASTM E-108 (Fire: Pass a Class A)Combined Staff Experience of 82 yearsComputerized Inventory & State of the Art Field EquipmentCertified Playground Equipment / Surfacing Inspectors on Staff (CPSI)Leading Website: Product ChoicesReferences: Min. 50 State Licensed for General & Specialty Product FlooringGeneral Liability, Workers’ Comp & Auto Insurance of Min. $2,000,000 - $5,000,000 in CoverageBonding of at Least $750,000Extensive Literature & Specifications to minimize the approval process5-Year Warran…

Loose Fill & Poured-In-Place, Bad Mix and Budget Inequality

I visited Cachuma Lake, California over the weekend camping with family and decided to take in some sights and walk off the camping food I had been eating all day.

I came across a beautiful playground with a nicely designed shade structure that was incorporated in the unit.

When I got a bit closer I noticed that the unit used two safety surfacing elements. One was the Poured-In-Place type to meet ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and the other was a Wood Mulch that apparently was to meet budget concerns.

The play structure had synthetic Poured-In-Place surfacing around the unit to meet the need of Critical Fall Height (Head Injury Criteria) then sloped to blend into the Wood Mulch. The Wood Mulch continued the safety surface (Inexpensively) to create a surface that would meet the fall heights standards.

In theory, this is a way to cut the budget and try to provide an adequate play surface for this very large play structure and maximize the play area.

However, this is my view…

I under…

Spain and Children's Playgrounds!

I just arrived back from Spain a few weeks ago and already miss that wonderful place. What a beautiful and amazing country. I visited ten cities in just about two and a half weeks. When I arrived home, I felt as though I needed a vacation from what was supposed to be my relaxing summer trip.

What clean and friendly cities all throughout southern Spain! The food was less exciting than I had hoped. No real variety or flavor. What a disappointment...

And of course, I could not help myself and inspected a couple of playgrounds while I was there.

Wow, what a horrific site! Safety, what safety? It was a disaster.

Most of the play areas were in poor condition and not maintained as well as the city sidewalks. In Madrid the sidewalks get cleaned every night with power washers at roughly 12:30am (Madrid begins to get dark at about 10:00pm during the summer and dinner and everything is just later in Spain) but I digress, sorry…

The equipment as I stated, was not maintained after it was installed and …

What is "Safe Child Campaign"?

Providing “Collective Safe Play Environmentsfor our children through:

Creativity in Design
Age Appropriate (2-5, 6-12, 13-17)
Superior Equipment Quality
Special Needs Friendly
Play Functionality
Educational Features
Open Space
Shelter / Shading
Superior Safety Surfacing
Site Furnishings
Child Safety
Child Security
Community Involvement Green
Record Keeping
I believe it is vital to have all of these elements present in order to have an interactive, safe environment. Our children should want to continue to utilize these environments for continued play and education. It is unfortunate that in most areas around the United States they do NOT subscribe to the "Collective Safe Play Environment". I want to change this.
What are your thoughts?