posted on March 12, 2014 21:41
Home Playground Planning & Purchasing Information
Despite the lingering winter, spring really is right around the corner and we’ll be out in our yards enjoying the spring and summer weather before we know it. So if you think you might want to add a nice play set to your yard for the kids this summer now is the time to take a look at Play Set requirements and determine what type might work for you. The following recommendations were developed by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), and highlight the most important safety information you need to know about planning, constructing, and maintaining an outdoor home playground. Their recommendations are intended to reduce injuries associated with playground equipment and are not mandatory standards. The Outdoor Home Playground Safety Handbook we took this information from is available on the CPSC website, www.cpsc.gov.
There is a lot to consider here, but know that the top, St. Louis suppliers of backyard play set equipment adhere to such standards as do the manufacturers they represent. And while you should feel comfortable relying on their expertise and reputation the information, its always a good idea, when our children’s safety is in the balance, to familiarize ourselves with these issues.
Choosing a Site
It’s important to locate your home playground away from roads and driveways and readily visible from inside the home, patios or porches so you can keep an eye on it.
- Create a site free of obstacles that could cause injuries—such as low overhanging tree branches, overhead wires, tree stumps and/or roots, large rocks, bricks, and concrete.
- Choose a level location for the equipment. This can reduce the likelihood of the play set tipping over and loose-fill surfacing materials washing away during heavy rains. Some sites may need re-grading to improve drainage or to reduce the slope.
- Locate play equipment at least 6 feet from any structure or obstacle, such as a house, fence, sheds, trees or poles.
- Locate bare metal platforms and slides out of direct sunlight to reduce the likelihood of serious burns. A slide that faces north will receive the least direct sunlight.
Planning Play Areas
Children can injure themselves when they fall or run between pieces of play equipment. To help prevent this, you can do the following:
- Provide shock-absorbing protective surfacing material underneath and at least 6 feet beyond the perimeter of the play structure.
- Provide enough room so children can use the equipment safely. As an example, for structures with multiple play activities, a slide should not exit in front of a swing.
- Place each piece of play equipment so that it has at least 6 feet of play area around it. The areas in front of and behind swings need even more play space. The front and rear of swings should be even further away from structures. A rule of thumb for swings is a distance equal to twice the height of the top bar from which the swing is suspended.
- Separate active and quiet activities from each other. For example, locate sandboxes away from swings or use a guardrail or barrier to separate the sandbox from the movement of the swings.
Pick the Right Construction Materials
Whether your play equipment is made of metal, wood, or plastic, keep the following in mind:
- Metal should be painted, galvanized, or otherwise treated to prevent rust, corrosion and deterioration.
- Wood, intended for outdoor use, should be naturally, rot-resistant and insect resistant (e.g., cedar or redwood) or designed for this use like the newer synthetic decking woods. Treated woods should no longer be used for children’s play sets.
Hardware is an important component in assembling a play set. Protruding bolts and open hooks can cause lacerations or clothing entanglement—a possible strangulation hazard. To avoid these potential hazards:
- Use the bolts and screws provided or recommended by the manufacturer. They should be corrosion-resistant.
- Fasten all bolts, screws, washers, and nuts tightly. To prevent bolts from loosening, always use lock washers, self-locking nuts, or nuts with other locking means.
- Cover exposed bolt ends with caps supplied by the manufacturer. Bolts should not protrude more than the diameter of the bolt past the nut. Flush cuts are preferred.
- Cover exposed, open ends of tubing with caps or plugs that cannot be removed without the use of tools.
- Close “S” hooks and all other hooks so that the gaps are less than the thickness of a dime. Open-ended hooks may be used for the uppermost attachment points of swinging elements. Unacceptable hook configurations create a protrusion and could catch clothing.
Do not install home playground equipment over concrete, asphalt, or any other hard surface. Grass and dirt are not considered protective surfacing because wear and environmental factors can reduce their shock absorbing effectiveness. Carpeting and thin mats are generally not adequate protective surfacing either.
- Maintain a minimum depth of 9 inches of loose-fill materials such as wood mulch/chips, engineered wood fiber (EWF), or shredded/recycled rubber mulch for equipment up to 8 feet high; and 9 inches of sand or pea gravel for equipment up to 5 feet high. NOTE: An initial fill level of 12 inches will compress to about a 9-inch depth of surfacing over time. The surfacing will also compact, displace, and settle, and should be periodically refilled to maintain at least a 9-inch depth.
- Use a minimum of 6 inches of protective surfacing for play equipment less than 4 feet in height. If maintained properly, this should be adequate. (At depths less than 6 inches, the protective material is too easily displaced or compacted.)
- Use containment, such as digging out around the perimeter and/or lining the perimeter with landscape edging. Don’t forget to account for water drainage.
- Do not install loose fill surfacing over hard surfaces such as concrete and asphalt
Poured In-Place and Rubber Tile Surfaces
You may be interested in using surfacing other than loose-fill materials—like rubber tiles or poured in-place surfaces. Installations of these surfaces generally require a professional and are not “do-it-yourself” projects. Review surface specifications before purchasing this type of surfacing. Ask the installer/ manufacturer for a report showing that the product has been tested to the following safety standard: ASTM F1292 Standard Specification for Impact Attenuation of Surfacing Materials within the Use Zone of Playground Equipment. This report should show the specific height for which the surface is intended to protect against serious head injury. This height should be equal to or greater than the fall height—vertical distance between a designated play surface (elevated surface for standing, sitting, or climbing) and the protective surfacing below—of your play equipment.
This article was created with information from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Outdoor Home Playground Safety Handbook, by R3 St. Louis and Charley Bergfeld of Bergfeld Recreation.