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.] This latest development is very worrying. I understand that the strength and depth of opposition to the proposal, and the degree of support for the wider review that many of us are calling for, were factors in yesterday’s positive decision. So
for the chairman now to sidestep further proper debate even within his own committee is deeply troubling. I would urge anyone who supports the call for a wider review – from the USA and around the world, and both within and beyond the standard-setting process – to continue to make their views known publicly and to ASTM. The committee members I am in touch with have welcomed the public debate, and would I am sure appreciate supportive action.
This is a complex issue with strongly-held views. I will continue to foster reasoned, constructive debate and share news and views, here and elsewhere, to the best of my ability – though there are challenges, not least the lack of transparency in ASTM’s decision-making. To repeat: there is no doubt that the extent of debate and opposition to ASTM’s proposal has helped to get this result. I am hugely grateful to everyone who has taken up the issue so far. I am sure that, in saying this, I speak for UK Play Safety Forum chairman Robin Sutcliffe (co-author of our letter to ASTM) and the rest of the Forum. As ever, am happy to hear your comments.
[Update 23 March: see this post for a helpful paper on the topic from Prof David Ball, a long-term collaborator of mine.]