Supplement Feature - September 2020
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Water Fun For Everyone

Aquatic Play Gets 'Smart'

By Rick Dandes

Until now, Goss noted, concrete has been the standard, "but I believe it's not really ideal in these environments. It can either be very abrasive or it can be very slippery. Kids tend to run and fall in these spaces no matter what, and falling onto a hard surface like concrete really does them a disservice. You also have very young children, their parents and their grandparents all looking to enjoy splash pads so it makes much more sense to look into using safety surfacing in these spaces."

Goss suggests foam-rubber tile products with a non-abrasive texture, which offers slip-resistance and impact cushioning in ways that concrete simply can't.

As of last fall, Goss explained, "there's a new surfacing standard for aquatic play areas that's gone into effect through NSF/ANSI 50. It recommends using a safer surface that is well-suited for aquatic environments in terms of both durability and cleanability."

The standard focuses on six performance criteria. The first two are the major ones: slip resistance and impact attenuation. The next two, UV and chemical resistance, look at whether a material will hold up when exposed to sun and harsh chemicals in an aquatic environment. And lastly, it assesses cleanability and impermeability to make sure that an approved surface can easily be cleaned of contaminants.

Post-COVID Considerations

The current pandemic has affected us globally, Hutchinson said, "and as some areas are working through reopening in phases that align with their local government recommendations, others are still restricting many social activities and gathering spaces."

The best way to determine what's safe in any community, she said, is to look to the local health authorities and follow their lead. "The very cool thing about a splash pad is that you can engage with the play elements without being hands-on with any physical element."

According to the CDC, Skogen added, there is no evidence that COVID-19 can be spread to humans through the use of recreational waters. However, the CDC provides guidance to encourage healthy hygiene of visitors to aquatic facilities including washing hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, maintaining a distance of at least 6 feet away from people you don't live with, and staying home if you or someone in your household is feeling ill.

High-touch surfaces, such as the water features themselves, should be cleaned routinely.

"We encourage our customers to review their team's protocols and procedures for cleaning public spaces," Lapierre said. "Consider shutting down your splash pad at regular intervals during operating hours to thoroughly clean and disinfect indoor aquatic play features, and clean outdoor features."

Facilities should be assessing whether their splash pad surfaces lend themselves to being easily cleaned, Goss added. RM