We love the work we do at No Fault Sport Group. What’s not to love about making playgrounds safe and fun! We’re proud that our safety surfacing products (poured-In-place rubber surface, rubber safety tiles, bonded and loose-fill rubber mulch, and synthetic turf) make the world a safer, more attractive place.
But, we also take our job very seriously. More than 200,000 children are injured on America’s playgrounds every single year. So our mission—to promote safety on playgrounds and other play areas—is one we do not take lightly!
Here’s something we discovered that promotes our mission of safety. The National Program for Playground Safety has published a “Safety Report Card” that can help you measure the safety of your play area, whether it’s in a local park, a school playground, child care center, or in your own backyard. Although more extensive inspections should be done by a Certified Playground Inspector, this document can be a great start to making sure your playground has all the safety elements it needs.
Stay Safe with S.A.F.E
The “Safety Report Card” names four contributing factors to properly maintain a safe playground atmosphere. They’re called “S.A.F.E. Factors,” and they are as follows:
- (S) Supervise children during play
- (A) Age-appropriate playgrounds are key
- (F) Fall surfacing under and around play equipment is essential
- (E) Equipment must be properly maintained
Let’s look at each one individually.
Parents, teachers, and other adults have to take an active role in playground supervision. They must be able to anticipate preventable problems and hazardous situations. This means being alert and attentive. Ask yourself the following: Are adults always present when children are on the equipment? Can the kids be seen while they’re playing (even if they’re in crawl spaces)? Are there rules posted regarding expected behavior?
Make sure you are designing your play areas so supervisors can see all kids at all times. Work within your organization to develop a supervision plan, and you’ll minimize the risk of injury.
Even if your playground is small, it’s best to divide areas based on the age groups that will be using it. For example, separate areas for ages 6 months through 23 months, 2-5 and 5-12 are good targets.
The “2-5” area would allow toddlers to easily manipulate items, explore and learn to interact. It should not include potentially harmful equipment like chain walks, fulcrum seesaws, or overhead rings. Developmentally appropriate play areas for older kids (5-12) should encourage social growth and cooperation. These older children might enjoy rope or chain climbers, horizontal bars, tire swings, and open areas for sports play.
Here’s a statistic we are all-too-familiar with: 70 percent of all playground injuries are related to falls. That’s why safety is a huge aspect in playground design. For example, do platforms have guardrails and do they allow kids to easily get on or off a structure? Is equipment designed in such a way to prevent climbing outside the structure?
You can’t think of every possible scenario that might lead to a fall, so safety surfacing is a must. Asphalt, cement, dirt, and grass are not acceptable for areas under and around playground equipment. Playground safety experts generally recommend that you choose loose-fill or synthetic surface materials instead. Although sand and wood mulch are commonly used because of their inexpensive up-front cost compared to other surfaces, they do not provide the long-term savings or the safety ratings of poured-in-place rubber or unitary or loose rubber much.
When considering a safety surfacing for your playground, ask the following questions:
- What is the height of the equipment on the playground?
- What is the depth needed for the surfacing?
- Where should the surfacing be placed?
- Does it meet American Society for Testing & Materials standards and Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines?
- Does it have a proven track record in similar climates?
- Will it meet your needs for durability, drainage, and accessibility?
Play areas should include stable paths surfaced with a certified material that has been tested to meet ADA guidelines, such as No Fault Safety Surface. You also need to make sure loose fill material (like No Fault Rubber Mulch) is appropriately deep. Concrete footings need to be covered, as well, to protect against those inevitable head bumps.
Don’t forget that play spaces have to be maintained for safety and longevity. This maintenance means making sure wooden playground equipment is free from splinters and metal is free from rust. Drainage should be working properly, and any damage to play equipment or safety surfacing should be monitored and addressed. Keep an eye out for protruding bolts and cracks in plastic equipment. You should establish a maintenance schedule based on your play equipment manufacturers’ recommended maintenance guidelines.
No Fault Keeps Kids Safe
The Safety Report Card is a great place to begin if you want to make sure you’re incorporating safety elements on your playground. You can see the Safety Report Card here. If you’re not sure about what “next steps” to take, we can help! Contact No Fault Sport Group online or via phone at 1-866-NFSPORT (637-7678), and we will help you keep your play areas as safe as they can be!