Tuesday, August 11, 2009

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”:

  1. Company Length of Service 15-20 years
  2. IPEMA Certified (Int. Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association)
  3. Factory Direct Installation
  4. ASTM 1292-04 (Impact Attenuation)
  5. ASTM F-1951 (Wheel Chair Accessibility)
  6. GSA Approved (General Services Administration)
  7. ASTM E-108 (Fire: Pass a Class A)
  8. Combined Staff Experience of 82 years
  9. Computerized Inventory & State of the Art Field Equipment
  10. Certified Playground Equipment / Surfacing Inspectors on Staff (CPSI)
  11. Leading Website: http://www.letsplayrecreation.com/
  12. Broad Product Choices
  13. References: Min. 50
  14. State Licensed for General & Specialty Product Flooring
  15. General Liability, Workers’ Comp & Auto Insurance of Min. $2,000,000 - $5,000,000 in Coverage
  16. Bonding of at Least $750,000
  17. Extensive Literature & Specifications to minimize the approval process
  18. 5-Year Warranty
  19. Dun & Bradstreet Scoring
  20. Active Industry / Community Involvement
  21. Head Start Body Start Physical Activity Consultant on Staff

    And should they not meet at least 19 (90%) out of 21, it has been my experience over the last 22 years of being the leading full service playground environment provider that you should keep looking for a provider!

Monday, August 10, 2009

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 understand the need to meet budgetary restraints and do not fault architects regarding this. However, I do blame an inequality in the distribution of funds in the failure to achieve a “Collective Safe Play Environment”. Budget dollars need to be distributed equally. It is obvious, where they run out of money. It is usually in the surfacing products and the landscaping around the play unit.

The problem I noticed with this unit is that all the budget dollars went into the wonderful play structure with no money left over for anything else.

In fact, the Poured-In-Place should have met a six foot CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) guideline even though there was a transition between two different surfaces (Poured-In-Place & Wood Mulch). I believe the transition should not have occurred during the necessary minimum safety zone of six feet (I usually recommend eight feet). Moreover, in most places I found the Poured-In-Place Safety Surfacing was less than six feet and the transition slope between the two surfaces was too great forming a tripping hazard. Most of the Wood Mulch was displaced from the surface transition edge and the Wood Mulch itself was displaced throughout the playground, creating a mess all around the entire area. This is due to the lack of routine maintenance.

I believe the decision makers should have with a more cost effective unit, and provided an adequate play zone. They could have spent more budget dollars in a long lasting synthetic surface that included the entire play area and met the ADA requirements. Then there would have been budgetary dollars remaining for adequate site furnishings and minimum landscaping. I think that some organizations and municipalities must put safety above all else. Safety first!