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Playground Surfacing Matting and Home Playground Equipment
—by Derek Smiley
Safety always comes first, be sure you choose the right kind of surface for your indoor or outdoor playground.
In todays world of health and safety and the risk of getting sued, childrens playgrounds really do have to have soft landings solutions for thoses kids who decide to crash land.
Rock hard surfacing materials, such as asphalt and concrete, are unsuitable for use under and around indoor and outdooor playground equipment at any height. Exceptions of this do occur such as they are required as a solid base for a shock-absorbing playground safety material such as a rubber matting or a rubber playground surface.
The solution may be earth surfaces such as soils and hard packed dirt or playground turf. However these are definetely also not recommended because their shock absorbing properties can vary considerably.
Why? Well for instance the weather may produce bone dry surfaces or freezing hard surfaces. Climatic conditions such as moisture and temperature, must always be taken into consideration.
Similarly, grass and cut turf are not really recommended because their effectiveness in absorbing shock during a fall can be reduced considerably due to wear and tear and environmental conditions, such as rainfall and time spent exposed to the sun and many other variants.
What is acceptable for your childs playground safety surface? Well the following advice may be of benefit for you. For starters, acceptable playground surfacing materials are available in two basic types, UNITARY or LOOSE-FILL.
Unitary Materials: These are nearly always rubber mats or a combination of rubber like materials composites. Simply put these are held in place by a binder that may be poured on site at the playground. Once poured this will cure (SOLIDIFY) to form a unitary shock absorbing surface,i.e. to stop little Tommy from breaking his neck!
Very importantly these materials should give the critical height fro whcih they are safe. The term of unitary materials are available from a number of different manufacturers many of whom have a range of materials with differing shock absorbing properties for soft landings.
Companiues or individuals who wish to install a unitary material as a playground surface should request comprehensive test data from the manufacturer that should identify the Critical Height of the desired material. They should also check their liability insurance for any smnall print concerning test data criteria.
Over and above these criterias playground matting and surfacing requirements should be obtained from the manufacturer because, as stated above, some unitary materials require installation over a hard surface while for others this is not a requirement for safe practices. Rememeber if in doubt ask the experts, including your insurance company.
Loose-Fill Materials: These can also have the acceptable shock absorbing properties requireed for soft landings. However they have to be installed at the sufficient depth. These materials include for instance but are not confined to, sand, gravel, and shredded wood chippings products. It is important not to usel oose-fill materials over hard surfaces such as asphalt or concrete. They will not provide the adequate softlandings environment.
Because loose-fill materials are generally sold for purposes other than playground surfacing, many vendors are unlikely to be able to provide information on their shock absorbing performance. For that reason, it is important to find out scientists who have conducted tests to determine the soft landing and their relative shock absorbing properties of the vfarious loose-fill materials commonly used as surfaces under and around home and general playground equipment.
Hopefully once you have followed rthe recommendations of this article you will have a worry free playground environment. Safety always comes first and it is better to be on the safe side rather than the sorry side.
About the Author
Having set up some home playground equipment Derek Smiley has been able to pass on some very useful safety information concerning playground safety surface and playground matting and surfacing providing safe soft landings for children.
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