What is ‘Critical Fall Height’ and Why Does it Matter?

If you’ve been looking at our No Fault website (and if you have, WELCOME!) you may have noticed that each of our playground safety surface products (such as Poured-In-Place (PIP), Loose Rubber Mulch, Bonded Rubber Mulch, and Safety Tiles) have “critical fall heights” associated with them.

“Critical fall height” is the height at which a critical injury can occur. It is based on the “highest designated play area,” or the height of the highest piece of equipment that a child can stand on during normal play.

What’s the purpose? Each year, over 200,000 children are injured in playground falls, and most can be prevented by installing a shock absorbing surface. An industry standard called American Standard Testing Methods (ASTM) sets the requirements for manufacturers like No Fault, and we take these requirements seriously.

The term “critical fall height” is a combination of fall height and critical height. In this post, we define each of those terms and explain their importance.

What is Fall Height?

According to ASTM, fall height is defined as the “vertical distance between a designated play surface and the protective surfacing beneath it.”

Fall heights vary according to the types of equipment used on the playground. For example, the fall height of climbing equipment, such as a jungle gym will differ from that of a swing set.

Here is a list of fall height measurement criteria for various types of playground equipment:

  • Climbing equipment – highest part of the climber intended for foot support;
  • Upper body equipment – highest part of the equipment;
  • Swing sets – the pivot point;
  • Seesaws – maximum height attainable by the seat;
  • Spring rockers – height of the seat;
  • Composite equipment (where components are connected) – distance from the highest designated play surface to the protective surface.

What is Critical Height?

Critical height correlates with the impact attenuation, or shock absorbency, of the surface material. Its purpose is to “approximate the maximum fall height that would not result in a life threatening head injury,” according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Depending on the playground surface material being used, critical height measurements vary. For instance, with rubber mulch, if the playground equipment fall height is eight feet, the critical fall height must attain a depth of six inches. If poured-in-place rubber surface is used as a protective safety surface, a depth of 3.5 inches must be achieved.

How Is Critical Fall Height Tested?

Critical fall heights are determined by testing methods that evaluate the shock absorbing properties of the playground surfacing material. This can be laboratory testing or testing in the “fall zone” at the actual play area.

Testers drop an instrumented metal “head-form” onto a sample of the playground surfacing material and record how fast and hard it hits the material. A “head form” is a head-shaped device which has a built-in device for measuring acceleration. The test is repeated from varying heights. These heights determine the thickness of each system needed for protection.

When it comes to installation, you must take into consideration both the depth of safety surfacing and the area of surfacing needed. The surfacing should extend beyond the edge of equipment use area, especially where kids can fall away from the equipment (tumbling out of a swing set seat, for example).

Also, different play equipment will have different fall heights—your equipment manufacturer can tell you what the rating is for each item.

No Fault Safety Surfacing is ASTM Compliant

The use of surfacing materials that have the proper resiliency and impact attenuation is one of the most important factors in reducing injuries from falls.

As we’ve said many times, your children’s safety is our most important concern. When you partner with No Fault, you can rest assured that all our playground safety surface materials are ASTM F-1292 compliant and meet all critical fall height standards and requirements. And if you have any questions … contact us today!

No Fault Project Spotlight – Hewlett-Woodmere School District Playgrounds, New York

Three public schools in the Hewlett-Woodmere School District wanted new playgrounds for quite some time, and thanks to the partnership of Little Tikes Commercial New York and No Fault, their dreams have come true!

Franklin Early Childhood Center, Hewlett, New York

Craig John, Little Tikes Commercial New York, mentioned that the administrators at Franklin Early Childhood Center were hoping for a zoo/nature theme for their new play area along with a tree of life.  Little Tikes Commercial provided the play equipment in colors of tan, purple and green, and No Fault provided and installed 4,600 square feet of No Fault Safety Surface (poured-in-place rubber).  All three schools chose earth tone colors of terracotta red, blue, green and tan for the safety surfacing.

Hewlett Elementary School, Woodmere, New York

This school wanted a play area that matched their school motto, “Bridging the Gap”.  They chose a “Brooklyn Bridge” and sports theme.  The bright blue Little Tikes Commercial play equipment and our No Fault Safety Surface (installed just over 6,600 square feet) makes an attractive, winning combination!

Ogden Elementary School, Valley Stream, New York

The Principal wanted a “Central Park” type theme and look.  The Little Tikes Commercial play equipment includes two slides; one is a giant, bumpy, blue slide, and the other is a red, rapid slide.  The playground area also contains a climbing wall, shaky bridge, buddy benches, amphitheater, rotating wagon wheel and a new zipline which is what the whole school had been waiting for!  No Fault provided and installed just over 9,000 square feet of No Fault Safety Surface to complete the job.

The children at Ogden Elementary School are thrilled with their new playground which they are calling “Oggie’s Playground”!  There was so much excitement buzzing among the children over the new play area that school officials came up with a set of playground rules to help ensure safety for all users (these are good rules to be followed at all playgrounds).

Here are a few:

–              Never wear boots or sandals on the playground.

–              Never go under the zipline; it’s dangerous!

–              When on the blue or red slides or zipline, there should only be two people on the platform.

–              Don’t climb up the slides.

–              Only one person at a time is allowed on the shaky bridge.

  • Anthonia: “I like the new flooring on the playground because we don’t get rocks in our shoes anymore.” 
  • Johanna: “It feels like walking on a cloud.” 
  • Raphael: “I love the zip-line and slides.  Recess is awesome.” 
  • Yael: “I love the natural elements, like the tree trunks.” 
  • Mikaela: “It is so much better than the other playground because it has more slides, a zip line and there are mats.” 
  • Lia: “I like this playground because there is a theatre that I can make shows with and for my friends.” 
  • Kourtney: “I like the wagon wheel because you can spin really fast on it.” 
  • Brendan: “The monkey bars are fun to go on.”
  • Daniella: “Last year the zip line wasn’t safe but this year you can sit or stand on the zip line.” 
  • Phillip: “When I get on our playground, I feel overwhelmed with joy.  I’m excited to try out all of the slides, monkey bars and best of all – the zip line!” 
  • Julia: “I like the floor on our playground – No rocks in our shoes. The slides are not boring and they curve. They are very fast and fun.”

Are you constructing a new playground?  Would you like to use the latest, most innovative and colorful play equipment, as well as a rubber safety surfacing that will ensure the safety of the children who enjoy it?  Contact No Fault today!  Our knowledgeable sales associates can help you create the playground of your dreams!

Does Longer Recess Mean Better Grades?

As beneficial as playtime is for our children, unfortunately, it has been scaled back or eliminated altogether in schools across the country. The average third-grader receives only 1.7 hours of outdoor play per week according to a National Center for Education Statistics study, and 8 percent don’t get recess at all.  In sixth grade, 13 percent of children have no scheduled recess!

In the classroom, children are told to sit still and be quiet. Everyone knows playtime gives them the chance to burn off some energy and get exercise. Everyone knows children love recess because it gives them free time to relax, play, and simply be kids.

However, what many people don’t know is that there are proven links between physical activity and learning. That is why parents and educators should take steps to ensure recess becomes standard in their schools.

Let’s take a closer look…

Why Recess is Disappearing

There are many reasons recess is becoming a thing of the past, including:

  • Lack of space or facilities
  • Inadequate adult supervision
  • Concerns about safety
  • Subpar playground equipment

The biggest reason comes from academic standards. In 2002, No Child Left Behind pressured school districts to cram as much teaching into the day as possible. Because of their short instructional day, only 11 percent of states now require elementary schools to provide regular recess (according to the Centers for Disease Control).

Urban and low-income areas are the most affected. Thirty-nine percent of African-American children don’t have recess, compared to 15 percent of Caucasians. Forty-four percent of low-income children don’t have recess versus 17 percent of others. Twenty-five percent of children who struggle academically don’t have recess versus 15 percent of those who perform well (source: Teachers College Record).

One reason so many schools have been willing to eliminate recess is because they figure after-school sports should be enough, but that is not the case. Recess differs from PE or organized sports because it gives children unstructured, free play. With recess, children have choices and can organize their own games free from adult parameters, which lets them develop their imagination and critical thinking skills.

How Longer Recess Helps Grades

Many health and education experts argue that recess is a necessary activity for child development. Playtime also helps with things that don’t get taught inside a classroom. Research shows that children who get regular recess:

  • Are less fidgety
  • Focus more
  • Develop more brain connections
  • Are more physically active before and after school

They also get the opportunity to develop social skills like leadership, negotiation, turn-taking, and conflict resolution. Recess can help students retain more of what they learn, because it helps with memory and can “reset” their brains for the remainder of the day.

What does the research show? Recess “represents an essential, planned respite from rigorous cognitive tasks,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP cautions against decreased time for recess because children need “a time to rest, play, imagine, think, move, and socialize”.

“After recess for children, or after a corresponding break time for adolescents, students are more attentive and better able to perform cognitively”, the AAP said in their statement.

Here are some other facts to consider:

  • Three out of four parents say recess should be mandatory (according to a survey by the National Parent Teacher Association).
  • Eight of ten principals say recess has a positive impact on academic learning (according to a 2009 poll).
  • The National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommends elementary school children have at least 20 minutes of recess daily.

The push for academic standards has left little room for outdoor play, but the irony is this: recess is actually shown to help children in the classroom.

Parents and Teachers Push Back

Parents and teachers are fighting the trend, calling on schools to bring playtime back. Laws requiring minimum recess amounts are being proposed—and passed—all over the country. Of course, there are financial considerations, and districts must make sure they have the employees needed to supervise children and money for safe playground equipment.

Is recess threatened in your school? Find out if there is a policy in place; if there isn’t, push for one! Tie your argument to increased performance in academics. Where recess is eliminated, teachers can get creative by taking children on a long walk back from lunch or having them do jumping jacks between lessons.

Remember: Recess should not be withheld for academic reasons or for “punishment.” Indeed, it’s the children who have trouble concentrating and behaving that need recess more than anybody else! Exercise and fresh air can help make students more productive and boost performance in math, science, and reading. When schools cut recess time or eliminate it entirely, they could be hurting academic performance as well.

Need help in designing and planning for your new playground area, or need to refurbish an existing playground?  No Fault can assist!  Contact one of our sales associates today.  No Fault has been providing playground safety surfacing all throughout the nation for the past 4 decades.  We are always available and eager to help.