Category Archives: playground

Playground safety: troubling new move from ASTM

American safety standards agency ASTM is considering a flawed new proposal – very similar to one rejected a few months ago – in a continued attempt to ratchet up requirements for playground surfacing. This in spite of growing calls for a wider, more transparent and thoughtful debate on the role and influence of playground standards.

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Photo credit: Martin Maudsley

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ASTM playground safety proposal defeated – but it could yet return

ASTM’s proposal to tighten up impact absorbency standards for playground surfacing has been defeated. The proposal did not receive enough support from members of the relevant committee even to be considered at its meeting in California last week. It has been widely criticized here and elsewhere, including in this article by leading Canadian accident prevention experts. Playground in Dundas, Ontario Continue reading

How many Canadian children die in playground accidents? An open question to Rolf Huber

How many children in Canada die each year as a result of equipment-related injuries on school and public playgrounds? The question is blunt, but important. As I have noted before, the safety standards body ASTM is right now voting on a proposal to make one of its key play equipment standards – for safety surfacing – more stringent, arguing that the risk of serious injuries and fatalities from falls in playgrounds is too high.

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Playground surfacing and ASTM: good news, but concerns remain

Yesterday ASTM put on hold its proposal to tighten up playground surfacing standards, according to reports from committee members. ASTM’s original proposal has prompted widespread criticism: most recently from campaigning journalist Lenore ‘Free Range Kids’ Skenazy and leading American playground design commentator Paige ‘Playscapes’ Johnson. So yesterday’s decision – to suspend publication and refer the issue back to the relevant committee – is good news. However, it is not clear what happens now. The next meeting of the surfacing committee is in May. But some members have told me that the chairman, George Sushinsky, is considering re-balloting members to push it through before then – perhaps before the end of March. [Update 11 March: I have heard via email that a re-ballot is indeed going ahead. The rest of this post has been lightly edited to reflect this fact.] Playground surfacing with question mark Continue reading

An open letter to ASTM, and to anyone who wants to see a thoughtful approach to playground safety

The American standards body ASTM International is planning a major change to playground safety standards. [Update 5 March 2015: this change was put on hold on 4 March – but what happens next is unclear. See this post for more details.]

This post (including a joint open letter to ASTM from Robin Sutcliffe – chairman of the UK Play Safety Forum – and me) is a direct plea to put this proposal on hold pending a wider review. The proposal – to tighten up the impact absorbency thresholds for playground surfacing – may sound purely technical. In fact, it is far more profound, as my regular collaborator Bernard Spiegal has argued. What is more, it could have far-reaching consequences, potentially leading to hundreds of millions of dollars of additional expenditure by schools, municipalities and others, the removal of equipment, and widespread playground closures. Its effects could be felt far beyond the USA, given the global push to normalize product safety standards.

Despite its implications, the proposal has so far had almost no debate beyond ASTM. This post, and the open letter below, aim to persuade ASTM to think again, and to open up this important topic to anyone who wants to see a more thoughtful approach to playground safety. Playground in housing estate Continue reading

The wobbly bridge revisited, or the problem with playground standards

3 boys in playground, one falling off a beamIn my last post, I used the example of a wobbly bridge to highlight why it is hard to manage risk in play spaces. I promised to say more about the role of equipment standards in managing risk, and why they need to be rethought. This post delivers on that promise.

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The wobbly bridge, or why it is harder to manage risk in playgrounds than factories

Rope bridge in play area“How can we make our playground safe?” It seems a simple enough question. Yet the answer is anything but (and even the question is not as simple as it looks). In fact, managing risk in a playground is much more complex than in a factory or a workplace. The reason for this is down to a fundamental difference in the nature of the task. One way to grasp this difference is to think about a wobbly bridge.

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