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Problem Solver - August 2017
Problem Solver Questions & Answers

Find the Safest Playground Surface


Most playground injuries that result in an emergency room visit occur when children fall to the surface. Because of this, it is critical to install effective safety surfacing beneath equipment. However, even when you invest in a safe surface, there are factors that will have an impact on your surface's effectiveness after installation, including weather, poor maintenance and more.

Q: We are considering playground safety surface options and want to find the safest solution that fits our space. What should we consider?

A: While most playground surface manufacturers provide third-party reports to explain and verify their surfaces' effectiveness and performance, there are factors that can decrease the surface's performance after installation. That means those third-party reports may not accurately reflect the performance of the surface once it's installed at your site.

Talk to your manufacturer about the impact of maintenance, weather and other contributing factors that can decrease the surface's effectiveness over time. Some manufacturers will provide field testing once your surface is installed. A field test will determine how well your specific surface is performing. Post-installation drop-testing is the most effective way to determine the effectiveness of a safety surface.

Q: Isn't a surface that has been verified by a third party to meet minimum safety standards good enough?

A: No. There are two standards that are used to measure a playground safety surface's effectiveness: G-max and HIC. G-max measures the maximum shock produced by impact, and guidelines require surfaces to test lower than 200 G-max. HIC, or Head Injury Criteria, measures the severity of impact and should test lower than 1,000. The important thing to remember is that these standards are the maximum allowable thresholds. A playground surface that tests at these levels at installation will quickly fall out of compliance due to environmental impacts, as well as normal wear and tear. That means a surface that performs far better than the maximum allowable thresholds is the ideal choice for safety.



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