Playground surfacing (again), cycle helmets and public risk: there are no simple answers

It is with an inward sigh that I share the news that once again, the US Standards body ASTM is considering a proposal to adopt stricter requirements for playground surfacing.

As regular readers will know, I have spoken out against this proposal several times. I was relieved to see its rejection last year, and can see no good reason for it to return. I urge anyone with influence within ASTM to take appropriate action (ballot no. F08 (16-06) for ASTM subcommittee F08.63 and main committee F08).

My long-time collaborator Bernard Spiegal posted a succinct piece last week on the topic. The Guardian editorial on cycle helmets he quotes makes a crucial point: there are rarely simple answers to questions about public risk. We have to talk about values, and we have to accept that humans are complex, contradictory creatures.

As Spiegal points out, risk benefit assessment is a tool that, while simple in form, recognises the complexity of judgements about risk. It is explicit about the need for clarity and consensus about values.

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By the way, if you are interested in cycle helmets – and cycling – you may like to download a report on cycling and children and young people I wrote for the National Children’s Bureau in 2005. It includes a discussion of cycle helmet safety in which I tried to do justice to the complexity of this emotive issue.

2 responses to “Playground surfacing (again), cycle helmets and public risk: there are no simple answers

  1. It is imperative to create the right surface for children to play on, to ensure their safety. The damage caused by a child falling over on concrete can be so much worse than falling over on our surfaces such as rubber grass mats, bonded rubber mulch, loose play bark and Wet Pour surfacing!

  2. I think we should all be aware that much of the demand to make more stringent and expensive the safer surface standards may originate from the very industries that stand to profit most from promoting a greater depth, quantity and volume of safer surface products in the face of common sense and innovative evidence/arguments. Decreasing play budgets are being forcibly soaked up by non play value items. Let’s stick to hood quality play as the objective of our work.

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