Be Sure of Your Playground Safety Surface
One of the most important elements of playground safety is the surface installed beneath the equipment. Falls to the surface are the cause of the majority of playground injuries, so ensuring your surface is performing as expected is a crucial task.
Q: We want to ensure our playground safety surface performs as promised. What can affect the surface's performance, and how can we be sure our surface is providing the expected protection?
A: There are two main methods for measuring the effectiveness of safety surfaces: HIC and Gmax. HIC, or Head Injury Criterion, measures impact severity. Gmax measures the maximum shock produced by an impact. To comply with standards, safety surfaces must test below the maximum allowable thresholds of 1000 HIC and 200 Gmax. Any surface that exceeds either of these numbers will be out of compliance and must be repaired or replaced.
Over time, many things can contribute to affect the rating, such as UV light exposure, weather, heavy use and more. Ask your surface manufacturer about the impact such factors can have on your surface. Also, know that a surface that tests below 1000 HIC and 200 Gmax in the lab might not be enough in the field. Look for a surface that can achieve much lower scores, and then perform field-testing to determine the surface's true performance at your site to ensure the best protection.
Q: How can we be sure our surface provides the correct level of protection over time?
A: To ensure your surface is performing as expected over time, you need to perform routine maintenance as recommended by the manufacturer. Depending on the type of surface you have, different maintenance practices will be required. Safety tiles are easily maintained, and do not require the daily raking of material required for loose-fill surfaces like wood fiber or rubber mulch. They also can be more easily repaired than many unitary surfaces. If a tile is damaged, you can simply replace it.
No matter which type of surface you use, be sure to inspect your playground regularly. Look for any damage or wear on the surface, and always remove garbage and debris.
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