Each year, thousands of children are injured while playing on playgrounds. The nature of the surfacing under and around playground equipment can play a big role in determining safety, and it is recommended that you ensure that your surfaces are safe through surface impact testing.
So, what is surface impact testing? Essentially, various testing methods are used to simulate a child falling onto a particular playground surface from a variety of heights so as to determine injury potential. Surface impact testing is an important measure to take to make sure that everyone on your playground can play safely. Regardless of the chosen material, every surface system diminishes over time to some degree, ranging from normal wear and tear to more extensive damage.
When it comes to impact testing, different types of playground surface materials have varying benefits and challenges that help or hinder playground safety. Here are some examples:
Loose-Fill Playground Surfaces
Opting for loose-fill playground surfaces, such as Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF) or Loose-Fill Rubber, can have a lot of benefits. In general, these options are cost-effective and have good shock absorption. However, they can degrade and thin out over time, and therefore tend to require more maintenance in order to ensure that they remain safe. Additionally, loose-fill surfacing can move, shift, and suffer erosion, especially in high-traffic or frequent-impact areas, such as under swings or slides.
- Engineered Wood Fiber
Engineered Wood Fiber is an attractive, affordable, and biodegradable surface solution for a playground. However, if considering EWF, it is important to check the source of the materials to ensure the absence of hazardous chemicals or loose hazards, such as nails or glass. In addition, EWF degrades over time, so you will need to plan to replace it every year or so in order to maintain safety standards.
- Loose-Fill Rubber
With adequate shock absorption, recyclable options, and a slower degradation process than EWF, loose-fill rubber is another good, safe option for playground surfacing. However, it is important to remember that rubber retains heat, and may become uncomfortable to play on during hot seasons.
Unitary Playground Surfaces
The other general type of playground surface, the unitary surface, is made of bound elements formed into tiles or rolls that should be installed by professionals for insurance and warranty purposes. These tend to require less maintenance than loose-fill surfaces over time.
- Bonded Rubber
Bonded rubber has lots of natural properties that provide excellent shock absorption, in addition to providing uniform impact resistance throughout a playground. This surface type also remains unaffected by temperature and is generally slip-resistant. However, it can be costly to install and may not be as resilient as loose-fill surfacing. Additionally, these surface types can also get harder over time, so it is important to get them tested to ensure that they continue to meet safety requirements.
- Rubber Tile
Rubber tiles designed for use as a playground surface have a few advantages and benefits. Tiles designed for use on playgrounds are typically rated or certified for specific fall heights that are outlined by the manufacturer. A playground designer and installer should be consulted to help determine the correct tiles to be used on your playground. While these tiles often have a long warranty life, you should still consider regular testing to ensure the best protection for families and children.
- Poured-in-Place Rubber Surface
“PIP” Rubber is an extremely durable and highly customizable playground surface. These surfaces should always be installed by a certified professional. Poured-in-place rubber is one of the best surfaces available for impact absorption and is hard to beat for durability and long-term value.
Consider Surface Impact Testing
A playground should be a safe place for children to run, jump, and soar with a soft place to land. No matter which playground surface material you choose, it is crucial to make sure that it will meet safety standards now and in the future.
At Playground Guardian, our surface impact testing helps to keep parks and playgrounds safe by utilizing top-of-the-line surface impact testing methods. With the use of the ST Impact Analyzer CH™ drop test, Playground Guardian is able to simulate the actual impact of a child hitting the surface, determining the safety of children when falling from specific heights. This equipment is used in addition to the Triax 2010 Safety Impact Test, which transmits data on the maximum deceleration of gravity (GMAX), as well as the severity and duration of impact, to a handheld computer for thorough and efficient analysis.
At Playground Guardian, safety is our priority. To learn more, contact our team today.