How Safe is Your Child’s Playground?

Between 1990 and 2000, 147 children ages 14 and younger died from playground –related injuries. Of these children, 31 (20%) died from falls to the surface beneath the playground equipment, most from fatal head injuries. Of these deaths, (70%) occurred on home playgrounds, with more injuries on climbers than on any other equipment. Although head injuries are the most severe, fracture to arm and shoulder is the most common type of injury.

Unsafe Playground Surfaces

Areas under and around playground equipment must be covered with soft materials to help protect falling children from injuries to the brain and bones. Concrete, asphalt, blacktop, grass, and dirt are unsafe surfaces to place under and around play equipment, as these materials provide the least cushion for a falling child.

CPSC Develops Guidelines for Playground Safety

In 2000, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, with the ASTM 1999 standards for shock attenuation of playground surfacing, developed guidelines to prevent life threatening and other injuries on playgrounds.

There are currently two types of approved surfacing materials used on playgrounds:

Unitary Surfaces: continuous, immovable surfaces that are manufactured on-site or installed, such as rubberized tiles

Loose-Fill Surfaces: particulate materials such as wood chips, engineered wood fiber, sand, pea gravel, and plastic or rubber chips distributed underneath playground equipment at a depth that allows an impact to be absorbed

Rubber Chips the Material of Choice for Playground Surfaces

Testing research has shown that loose-fill materials offer more shock absorption than unitary surfaces, with rubber chips giving twice the shock absorption of other loose-fill materials. Readily available, relatively inexpensive, and easy to install for public and home use, rubber chips are now the material of choice for playgrounds.