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.
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.
I 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.
Today marks a new phase in the move to a more balanced, thoughtful approach to risk management risk in children’s play and learning, with the launch of a short, easy-to-use assessment tool.
The risk-benefit assessment (RBA) form for the first time gives councils, schools and others an authoritative, practical document to help them weigh up risks and benefits. It is published by Play Scotland in partnership with Play England, Play Wales and PlayBoard Northern Ireland, and was commissioned and developed by the Play Safety Forum.
In this weekend’s Guardian, columnist Tim Lott writes about how his seven-year-old daughter ended up in hospital with a nasty injury after a cycling accident that was entirely his fault. He had been giving her a lift on the back of his bike, and her foot got horribly caught up in the wheel.
If you want to be really sure of a change in social attitudes, wait until it is picked up by corporate advertising. With this maxim in mind, I was intrigued to see this new video from the global household products corporation Procter and Gamble.
Posted in Child development, Learning, Risk
Tagged adventure, advertising, child development, corporates, media, outdoor adventure, Procter and Gamble, Risk, skiing, video