One of the most important things you can do to reduce the likelihood of injuries is to install a shock-absorbing protective playground surface under and around your play set and swing set equipment. The protective surfacing should be applied to a depth that is suitable for the equipment height in accordance with ASTM F1292.
There are different types of surfacing to choose from, like rubber mulch and playground mulch; whichever product you select, follow these guidelines:
• Do not install home playground equipment over concrete, asphalt, or any other hard surface. A fall onto a hard surface can result in serious injury to the child.
• Grass and dirt are not considered protective surfacing because wear and environmental factors can reduce their shock absorbing effectiveness.
• Carpeting and thin mats are generally not adequate protective surfacing.
• Ground level equipment – such as a sandbox, activity wall, playhouse or other equipment that has no elevated play surface – does not need any protective surfacing.
• Maintain a minimum depth of 9 inches of loose-fill materials such as wood mulch/chips, engineered wood fiber (EWF), or shredded/recycled rubber mulch for equipment up to 8 feet high; and 9 inches of sand or pea gravel for equipment up to 5 feet high. Note: An initial fill level of 12 inches will compress to about a 9 inch depth of surfacing over time. The surfacing will also compact, displace, and settle, and should be periodically refilled to maintain at least a 9 inch depth.
• Use a minimum of 6 inches of protective surfacing for play equipment less than 4 feet in height. If maintained properly, this should be adequate. (At depths less than 6 inches, the protective materials is too easily displaced or compacted.)
• Use containment, such as digging out around the perimeter and/or lining the perimeter with landscape edging. Don’t forget to account for water drainage.
• Check and maintain the depth of the loose-fill surfacing material. To maintain the right amount of loose-fill materials, mark the correct level on play equipment support posts. That way you can easily see when to replenish and/or redistribute the surfacing.
• Do not install loose surfacing over hard surfaces such as concrete or asphalt.
Pour-In-Place Surfaces or Pre-Manufactured Rubber Tiles
• Installation of these surfaces generally requires a professional and are not “do-it-yourself” projects.
• Review surface specifications before purchasing this type of surfacing. Ask the installer/manufacturer for a report showing that the product has been tested to the following standard: ASTM F1292 Standard Specification for Impact Attenuation of Surfacing Materials within the Use Zone of Playground Equipment. This report should show the specific height for which the surface is intended to protect surface (elevated surface for standing, stilling, or climbing) and the protective surfacing below – of your play equipment.
• Check the protective surfacing frequently for wear.
• Extend surfacing at least 6 feet from the equipment in all directions.
• For to-fro swings, extend protective surfacing in front of and behind the swing to a distance equal to twice the height of the top bar from which the swing is supported.