Ensure Your Playground Safety Surface Meets Your Needs
Because most playground injuries occur when children fall to the surface, ensuring you have an effective surface installed beneath your equipment is crucial. But how do you know your surface provides adequate protection? There are many contributing factors that can lessen your surface's effectiveness after installation, from hot or cold temperatures to inadequate maintenance and beyond.
Q: We are evaluating our various options with the goal of choosing a playground safety surface that will suit our space. What should we consider?
A: Most playground surface manufacturers will provide third-party reports that verify and explain their products' effectiveness and performance. However, once the surface is installed, there are several contributing factors that can decrease the effectiveness of the surface, so those third-party reports might not be reflective of the performance of the surface installed at your site.
You should talk to the manufacturer of your surface about how things like maintenance, weather and other contributing factors can affect the performance of the surface over time. Look for a manufacturer that offers field testing once the surface is installed as part of your contract. A field test performed on your surface will reveal 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 it enough to install a surface that meets the minimum safety standards?
A: There are two specific standards that are used to measure the effectiveness of playground safety surfaces: G-max and HIC. G-max measures the maximum shock produced by an 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 1000 HIC. However, you should note that these standards set the maximum allowable threshold. In other words, if your playground surface is testing at these levels at installation, it will quickly fall out of compliance due to normal wear and tear, and other environmental impacts.
Because of this, you should look for a surface that performs far better than these maximum allowable thresholds.
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