Heading into 2020, we have the safest playgrounds for our schools and parks we have ever had. Children can run carefree without fearing unnecessary injuries, while parents and teachers can relax knowing that the little ones are playing in a safe area.
This is in large part due to rubber playground surfaces like poured-in place rubber and improved rubber playground tiles. Not only do these technologies keep today’s playgrounds safe, but they also make them attractive and cost-effective.
Playground equipment and the materials that go into making rubber surfacing have evolved throughout the years. Science and engineering continue to create more features that keep our children safe. Still, playground architects and school administrators need guidance when they are building these play areas.
That’s where IPEMA comes in.
We’ve written in the past about “What does it mean to be “IPEMA certified.” The International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association’s (IPEMA) Certification Seal for Public Play Equipment means that a supplier conforms to the play industry’s highest standards for safety and accessibility.
How IPEMA Helps
IPEMA provides certification services for play equipment and surfacing in the U.S. and Canada. This means they monitor the quality of playground surfacing materials intended for public play.
Nearly 25 years ago, 12 playground equipment manufacturers formed IPEMA to validate manufacturer compliance to the safety standards outlined in ASTM International standards (ASTM is the organization that develops and publishes technical standards for all kinds of materials, products, and services).
The original goals for IPEMA included:
- Make playgrounds safer
- Represent and serve play equipment manufacturers
- Provide members with information on economic and governmental issues affecting the industry
- Promote relationships with other related organizations to enhance the marketplace
For schools to have the latest playground equipment and surfacing, materials need to be supplied by a trusted and reliable manufacturer. IPEMA’s belief is that using products that are held to ASTM standards holds the manufacturer and the products to a higher level of quality. This helps customers select an appropriate manufacturer for their playground products with confidence and peace of mind.
How IPEMA Helps Communities
IPEMA sponsors Voice of Play, a website that fosters relationships between schools and the community with information about the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive benefits of play.
Voice of Play also has information about the latest in playground certification standards, as well as a forum to submit questions to the experts on play at IPEMA. The Newsroom area of the site provides helpful blogs on topics that range from bullying on the playground to creative ideas for playing in the winter months.
Other aspects of the website include:
Checklist for Access: This checklist provided helps owners of public play areas understand how to use the Department of Justice’s Standards for Accessible Design. The Checklist (which you can find here) has info about access route dimensions, surfacing requirements, play equipment ramps, and transfer stations for playgrounds of all sizes.
How to Choose Surfacing: Through research, consultation and collaboration with those on the front line of the playground industry, IPEMA published a surfacing guide to provide a complete source of regulations concerning proper installation and maintenance of all IPEMA-certified playground surfaces, including artificial turf, engineered wood fiber, interlocking tile, poured-in place and rubber mulch. The guide provides an overview of different types of surfacing materials, as well as detailed information on the installation and maintenance of materials to ensure both safety and access.
Play Pledge: Outdoor play is an essential part of every child’s healthy growth and development. As a parent, you can print and sign this pledge to make your child’s play a priority by creating a “play program” with your child. Make a commitment to ensure that your child has at least an hour of outdoor play a day at home and/or at school.
As an IPEMA partner, No Fault is proud to stand behind the safety and integrity of our playground safety products. The following No Fault products are certified by IPEMA under ASTM F1292-18 (Section 4.2):
- No Fault Safety Surface
- No Fault Bonded Rubber Mulch
- No Fault Safety Tile
Contact No Fault toll-free for all of your playground surfacing needs at 866-637-7678.
No Fault’s rubber safety surfaces bring beauty and safety to playgrounds, daycare centers, splash pads, pool decks, and theme parks across America.
Poured-in-place rubber safety surfaces (also called “PIP”) are popular because they give school and park administrators and others a durable, low maintenance, long-lasting way to keep kids safe.
PIP rubber safety surfacing is mixed on-site in a variety of colors to complement playground equipment or to integrate your school colors and themes. Installers can even modify the thickness to meet varying critical fall heights, which minimizes the risks associated with falls.
A newly installed playground surface should last for years to come, but basic maintenance is needed. The maintenance and cleaning not only preserve the integrity of the surface for safety, but also helps to keep it looking vibrant and welcoming to users.
To explain how you (as the proud new owner of a play area equipped with No Fault Safety Surface) can protect your new investment, read on!
Basics of Safety Surface Maintenance
The amount of maintenance and repair work you’ll need over the next few years will depend on the amount of use your surface receives. Most of the time, only small repairs are necessary in very high traffic/high use areas (underneath playground swings, at the base of slides, and at main entry points, for example). If you want to be proactive and prevent normal wear and tear, wear mats can be installed in these high traffic areas.
Remember, it is important to address maintenance needs at the first sign of wear. The longer you wait, the more expensive it can become. You don’t want to have to replace your entire playground surface, so some basic care along the way helps to keep your No Fault products performing as intended.
Here are six tips that should help:
- Perform Monthly Maintenance
Remove loose debris such as sand, dirt, or leaves that have collected on your safety surface using a broom, leaf blower, vacuum or water hose monthly. We recommend removal of debris on a more frequent basis if your playground is near significant foliage and prone to excess leaves collecting or growth alongside the edges. You may also use a pressure washer as long as you adhere to all No Fault Safety Surface Maintenance Guidelines.
- Remove Isolated Stains
Safety surfaces that are installed outdoors can become heavily stained in isolated spots. To clean these problem areas, wet them with a garden hose, then apply a full-strength all-purpose cleaner such as Formula 409. Scrub the stain using a 10″ medium-bristle basin scrub brush like the one pictured here:
You may need to repeat the process on extremely difficult stains. Stains may become harder to clean the longer they sit, so it’s wise to address the problem area right away.
- Clean the Entire Surface
In addition to removing isolated stains, you should also clean the entire surface from time to time. Again, you’ll start by getting the surface damp, then apply a mixture of full-strength all-purpose cleaner and water using a garden pump sprayer like this:
Clean a small section at a time to ensure you don’t overlook an area, which could cause streaking or a spotty appearance. Also, be sure to follow the directions included on the cleaner you choose. Once you clean the surface, rinse it thoroughly using a garden hose with a spray nozzle attached.
- Clean in Early Morning or Late Evening
Here’s one a lot of people don’t consider! In order to give cleaning products enough time to react without evaporating, it’s best to perform cleaning during the early morning or late evening.
- Use Recommended Equipment and Supplies
Here is a list of equipment and supplies we recommend that you use when cleaning:
- Broom, Wet/Dry Shop Vac or Blower
- Garden hose with spray nozzle
- Garden pump sprayer
- All-purpose cleaner in hand-held spray bottle
- Disposable rags and gloves
- Cleaning and rinsing buckets
- 10″ medium Bassine bristle scrub brush
- JOMAX House Cleaner and Mildew Killer (manufactured by Zinsser)
- Avoid Using Harsh Chemicals
The following chemicals can be detrimental to No Fault Safety Surface and could result in termination of the No Fault Safety Surface warranty. We strongly advise against their use.
- Chlorine bleach
- Hydraulic and lubricating oils
- Paint thinners
- Mineral spirits
- Heavily concentrated degreasers (e.g., Greased Lightning or Simple Green)
No Fault Safety Surface should give you attractive and safe surfacing for years to come, but routine maintenance will keep it in top-notch shape. Follow these six tips to help prevent costly repairs down the road.
Do you have an old surface already in need of repair, cleaning or resealing? Even if your initial surface wasn’t installed by No Fault, we are here to help! For more information on cleaning, maintenance or repair options, contact our office, and we will be glad to help!
In 2011, BREC Parks & Recreation System opened the water park “Liberty Lagoon” in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Not only does it contain numerous pools, splash pads, water slides, and a lazy river, Liberty Lagoon also offers swim lessons, water aerobics classes, and regularly serve up to 500 people per day.
No Fault LLC provided and installed our No Fault Safety Surface for Water Play at Liberty Lagoon when the park first opened. It’s a fun place for both children and their families to cool off on a hot summer’s day!
We recently installed our No Fault Safety Surface for Water Play to replace some of the surfacing at Liberty Lagoon that was worn due to a lot of use over the last eight years. One of the great things about our poured-in-place rubber surface is that it allows for in-laid designs and patterns in appealing bright colors. BREC wanted the colorful beach ball pattern in several areas on their splash pad to add an element of fun. The colors are so vivid that the beach balls appear to be three-dimensional!
We also provided our No Fault Safety Surface in a tan blend for the “island” that is located in the center of the lazy river pool. Poured-in-place rubber surfacing is seamless and slip-resistant making it an ideal application for water play areas. And, our very talented crew installed the BREC Logo in green.
Are you planning on constructing a new splash pad or water play area? Contact No Fault LLC at 1-866-NFSPORT. Our Regional Account Managers will be happy to assist you in designing your new water play area, or replacing the surfacing at your existing water park.
Anyone who remembers their childhood knows that children love playing in public water fountains. They even enjoy playing in the backyard sprinkler out on the lawn. It doesn’t take much to keep children entertained.
Have you considered building a splash pad for your park or recreational facility? Splash pads can transform an ordinary park area into a space-efficient aquatic playground that can be safer than a swimming pool. A splash pad has no standing water, which eliminates the need for constant supervision. They also require less maintenance than a swimming pool, and they use less water.
In this article, No Fault will present the benefits of building a splash pad, along with some considerations to keep in mind as you plan your own mini water park.
So … What’s A Splash Pad, Anyway?
You’ll hear them called a lot of names, including: splash pad, splash deck, sprayground, aquatic play pad, spray pool…. Whatever name they go by, splash pads will typically consist of colorful, soft rubber surfacing, spray jets and above-ground spray features, along with the necessary drainage to make it all work.
A splash pad can operate on a freshwater system, a grey water system, or a recirculating system. Typically, the water is treated to at least the same level of quality as swimming pool standards.
Above ground add-ons for a splash pad might include features such as themed showers or movable nozzles (also known as cannons), which allow children to spray one another. These showers and nozzles are often controlled by hand-activated motion sensors which run for a limited time.
As you can see from some of the photos on this page (all of them actual No Fault Splash Pad projects), the options are virtually limitless!
Success Starts With Smart Installation
Like any other play equipment, splash pads require proper installation to ensure optimal performance and safety. Here are a few installation tips:
Discuss design plans, installation and duration of concrete base work with the manufacturer and slab contractor. It’s important that all work in and around the base be finished prior to installation. Together, you’ll work as a team to create a plan for a successful project!
Non-slip safety surfaces, like our No Fault Safety Surface for Water Play, can only be installed on a dry, clean, and dust-free subsurface. Before installation, keep the site off-limits and sweep away foreign objects like dust and dirt.
No Fault Safety Surface requires a 48 to 72 hour post-installation curing period. There should be absolutely no walking on the splash pad during this time.
The bigger the splash pad, the longer installation will take – and the more good weather you will need for a successful installation. With as little as 100 square feet, you can create a fantastic splash pad. However, for areas more than 2,000 square feet or large inlaid designs, safety surfacing may require several days to install and cure.
Things to Remember About Your Safety Surfacing
No Fault provides the best-in-class rubber safety surfacing that makes splash pads attractive and safe. A poured-in-place rubber surface like No Fault Safety Surface provides a non-slip, heat-resistant cushion to guarantee years of safe play.
Some people build splash pads without safety surfacing. These water play areas are dangerous for a couple of reasons:
- Contact with concrete, cement, and asphalt can cause serious injuries in the event of accidental slips and falls.
- Materials, such as sand and concrete, absorb heat from the sun. Check out our other article in this month’s newsletter for more on this.
Although colorful designs are a big part of the splash pads we build, we strongly encourage that you avoid using black surfacing. Tests show that water treatment chemicals like bromine, ozone, and chlorine can break down chemical bonds in black EPDM rubber.
Regular Maintenance Protects Your Investment
Splash pads require regular maintenance to ensure water-play time is safe and enjoyable for everyone. Monthly maintenance will help keep your splash pad stain-free, slip-free, beautiful, and fun.
Cleaning is best done in the morning or at dusk. This allows cleansers to work their way into stains and germs without getting dried out too fast by the heat.
Start by sweeping, vacuuming, blowing, or hosing off the surface to clear it of dust, dirt, leaves and all other debris. Steel wool and abrasive scrubbers are not good for this! Instead, use a scrub brush with medium bristles to remove tough stains and minimize damage to your beautiful new splash pad.
Get the surface damp (this will prevent unnecessary friction), then apply a gentle cleanser. What kind of cleaner should you use? Avoid solvents and petroleum-based products such as gas, diesel, and hydraulic and lubricating oils—these products are damaging to No Fault Safety Surface. This includes harsh, color-leaching solutions like chlorine bleach, strong disinfectants, and concentrated degreasers. We recommend using an all-purpose cleaner like Formula 409 or Jomax House Cleaner and Mildew Killer.
Splash pads are a safe, affordable, and exciting enhancement to your park or recreation area. No Fault has worked on hundreds of splash pads over the years. We can advise you on the best way to plan for construction. Get in touch with us today, and we’ll help you plan for many fun-filled summers to come!
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!
Does your park have a bad reputation? The perception that a public place may be unsafe is enough to keep people from enjoying their local park or playground. If parents and other community members think a local park is a safety risk, they will steer clear of it whether or not crime is actually being committed there.
What contributes to this perception of risk?
It could be something that doesn’t have an easy solution. A persistent homeless presence, continuous vandalism, or faulty equipment, for example, are tough problems that won’t go away overnight. But most of the issues that could give your park or playground a bad reputation are things you can handle. Parks and school administrators should recognize these issues and take steps to make the community feel safer. Ultimately, if you can make residents feel proud of the public space, it will encourage more utilization as the community takes ownership of your park and everything it offers.
Here are some safety measures and other steps you can take to increase confidence in your park and promote community activities.
Keep the Schedule Full
A busy park is a safe park. Chances are your park or playground has peak times when children and adults can be found there, but what about the rest of the time?
What can you do to increase activity during the times of day and days of the week when the park is normally quiet? Quiet times are usually early mornings and late evenings during the work week. If you schedule group activities and other programs you can make the public feel welcome throughout the day and into the evening.
What sort of activities might these include? Organized sports and after-school programs are always popular. Here are a few more ideas you might consider:
- Off-leash dog events
- Family-friendly outdoor yoga, Pilates, or tai chi
- Teen programming, including movie night or an ice cream social
- Outdoor nature study and guided hikes
- Exercise meetups for senior citizens
- Plant swaps and botanical tours.
Do you have room for a picnic shelter, tables, and grills? Encouraging families to gather for meals will go a long way towards making everyone feel at home.
If possible, make sure these activities are visible from outside the park. With concessions and scheduled events throughout the park, you make it obvious to everyone in the neighborhood that people are there and something fun is happening.
Here’s one case study: a park in Syracuse, New York, had a reputation for being unsafe. Residents and members of the Syracuse Healthy Neighborhoods partnership worked to draw more people to the park with events like youth softball, a free summer camp, and weekly live music. These activities strengthened social support for the park and helped the community develop a collective sense of pride. Again, when you have people in the park, you ultimately create a safer park environment.
Keeping Up Appearances
Vandalism is an example of something that increases the perception that a public area is unsafe. Remove litter and graffiti quickly so it is clear that your park is being maintained. Adequate lighting is another way to keep your park or playground safe and help community members feel more at ease.
Along with efforts to combat litter and vandalism, be sure to have clear signage available. Maps and clear, descriptive instructions promote a sense of safety and deter inappropriate activities. Plus, they’re helpful for everyone!
Promote Safety and Inclusivity
Of course, your park should meet all applicable ADA requirements so your space is welcoming for wheelchair users and others who rely on special accommodations.
You should also make sure playground equipment is safe for both able-bodied and disabled children. That’s why frequent playground inspections are an important part of making playgrounds safe for the children who use them. (Check out our blog, Does Your Playground Pass or Fail? See Your Safety Report Card.)
For example, elevated surfaces should have guardrails or protective barriers to prevent falls. Look for broken equipment, including protruding bolts and splinters that can cause scrapes and cuts. Remember: wooden equipment can splinter with age, while metal surfaces exposed to bright sunshine can become hot enough to cause burns.
What are you doing to cushion falls around raised play equipment? According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, every year 200,000 children suffer playground injuries serious enough to require a trip to an emergency room. “Loose fill” materials such as wood chips, gravel, or sand are common surfacing choices that can protect kids from these kinds of injuries. However, these fill materials only work if they are consistently monitored to ensure they maintain a depth adequate enough to disperse the force of impact.
For easier maintenance and depth requirements, consider surrounding potentially risky areas with poured-in-place rubber safety surfacing, and you will have an attractive, effective way to cushion falls without always having to rake loose fill materials back into place.
Train Your Park Staff
Make sure park employees and groundskeepers have the training needed to keep park users safe. This includes making sure they have a clear plan in case of emergencies. If you have an automated external defibrillator (AED), make sure workers know how to use it. If your park includes a public swimming pool, make sure lifeguards are properly trained in first aid and CPR. Swimming pools surrounded by slippery surfaces need the right safety surfacing to prevent slips and falls.
Will employees be driving municipal vehicles? Make sure they meet the driver requirements. And of course, you may want to conduct background checks for positions that have access to resident information or that involve contact with children.
Get the Locals Involved
When community members feel like they have a stake in their local park, the sense of ownership and civic pride encourages consistent use and active stewardship. Neighborhood watch groups can coordinate with police to keep an eye out for illicit activity. Community policing builds connection between police officers and residents. When everyone contributes to make the park a better place, it is a win-win for all involved!
Need more ideas for boosting safety at your park or playground? No Fault can help! We are the nation’s leading provider of resilient rubber surfaces for playgrounds, splash pads, water play areas, jogging tracks, and more. Our safety surfacing has been installed throughout North America since 1974. Give us a call at 866-NFSport or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.