Guest Column - February 2012
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A Seasoned Approach to Playground Safety
Keeping Kids Safe in Every Season

By Brad Pittam

For comparison, it's interesting to note that crashing in a car at 40 mph can be much safer than simply falling from 2 feet onto a frozen wood mulch playground safety surface. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, for an automobile to earn a "Good" rating in a 40 mph front offset crash, the drivers head can not receive an HIC of more than 560. Even a car earning a "Poor" rating, where the drivers head receives a HIC of 840 or more, can be safer than a fall from two feet onto frozen wood mulch.

While wood mulch can offer proper protection in warmer conditions when properly installed and maintained, playground owners need to be aware of the potential dangers when wet wood mulch freezes.

Staying Safe

There are safety surfacing alternatives that can withstand the elements and will not absorb water and freeze, including rubber mulch and unitary surfaces using rubber mulch as the impact layer. Playgrounds that have safety surfaces made with these materials and installed with proper drainage will offer a consistent fall-height protection regardless of weather.

However, it is likely that children will still be playing on playgrounds that use all types of safety surfacing during the cold winter months that many areas of the country experience. During this time, playgrounds with wood mulch surfaces should be checked frequently by parks and recreation departments, schools and municipalities. If the surfacing is frozen, use of the playground should be restricted accordingly. It is the only way to ensure that kids are kept safe and protected from injuries that are the result of falling on a frozen wood mulch surface.

Brad Pittam is the general manager of LTR Products, a subsidiary of Liberty Tire Recycling, the premier provider of tire recycling services in North America. LTR Products is a creative outlet for advanced rubber-based landscaping and recreation solutions, maintaining a nationwide network of processing plants and convenient shipping points. Pinnacle Rubber Mulch, introduced to the marketplace by LTR Products in 2009, offers a viable, eco-friendly alternative to traditional wood mulch for playgrounds and landscaping. For more information, please visit