Observations on Impact Attenuation Criteria for Playground Surfaces by Professor David Ball

Tim Gill:

David BallThis post shares a most helpful paper on playground surfacing from David Ball, Professor of Risk Management and a long-term collaborator of mine. It is taken from the website of our mutual collaborator Bernard Spiegal.

As Bernard says, the value of David’s paper is that it places the playground surfacing debate in the wider context of social values and policy. What is more, it does this in a clear, concise, balanced and thoughtful way. It also offers some helpful historical insights. It should be of interest to anyone who wants to get a wider perspective on this complex topic.

Originally posted on Bernard Spiegal:

I reprint in full an important and helpful paper by David Ball, Professor of Risk Management at the Centre for Decision Analysis and Risk Management. The paper, ‘Observations on Impact Attenuation Criteria for Playground Surfaces, discusses some of the questions and tensions that inevitably arise whenever risk management decisions need to be made.

The paper – prompted by the American Society for Testing and Materials’ (ASTM) proposal to revise downwards the Head Impact Criterion for playground impact absorbing surfacing – is of wide relevance in that it sets out a way of thinking about risk in the context of wider social policy goals. I urge anyone involved in making decisions about children and teenagers’ play and learning to read the succinct and clear paper that follows.

The paper has been sent to ASTM.

Centre for Decision Analysis and Risk Management

 OBSERVATIONS ON IMPACT ATTENUATION CRITERIA FOR PLAYGROUND SURFACING

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Politicians told: invest in play, and children, families and communities will all see the benefits

Today a call goes out to all UK political parties to invest in children’s play because of the proven benefits to children, families and communities. The call comes from the Children’s Play Policy Forum (CPPF), which brings together the leading UK agencies with an interest in play.

4 asks

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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

First ever area-wide evaluation of street play proves its potential

Street play initiatives can make a real difference to the lives of thousands of children and families across an urban area. This was the key message of the first ever area-wide study of a street play programme, which I carried out for Hackney Council. My evaluation – launched by the London Borough last Friday – also revealed that schemes have caused minimal levels of traffic disruption, and have faced very little local opposition.

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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

Worried about the ‘zero risk’ approach to childhood? Relief is now just a click away

Cover image for No FearI am pleased to announce that my 2007 book No Fear: Growing up in a risk averse society can now be downloaded direct from this website as a pdf, thanks to my publishers Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

I am also pleased to announce that the mighty Playscapes playground design blog will be offering No Fear as a free-to-download resource. The offer coincides with that blog’s publication of the first of a series of design-related pieces of mine which are to be reposted on the blog.

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Simple pleasures: the swing

It is good to be reminded of the value of life’s simplest pleasures. Like the pleasure of feeling your suspended body sway smoothly through space on a swing. Swinging is an act of effortless grace: rising and falling on a fixed arc that flows first with, then against the pull of gravity.

Child on large swing at event of a thread Continue reading