In the cultural conversation about play and risk, adventure playgrounds – proper ones I mean, with timber structures, tools, junk materials and skilled workers – are very much on the radical side of the argument. But how dangerous are they, really?
One American school has conducted a natural experiment that helps to answer this question. And the results – set out in a report from the leading playwork group Pop-Up Adventure Play – cast doubt on standard approaches and thinking.
Parish school in Houston, Texas is a private school for children with a range of disabilities and conditions. It is highly unusual in that it has, on one site, two very different types of play space.
Parish School adventure playground. Photo: Alex Cote
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.
Photo credit: Martin Maudsley
This 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.
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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