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Playground Safety and Wet Play Equipment-- Part 1

By Arthur Mittelstaedt Jr., Ed.D and Paul Bosch

The growth of the leisure aquatic centers has set the wheels in motion to develop an ASTM standard that directly relates to water-play equipment. In December 2004, the ASTM F24 (amusement ride standard) Committee issued just such a first draft document--WK1074 New Standard Practice for Manufacture, Construction, Operations, Maintenance and Water Quality of Interactive Aquatic Play Equipment. This draft could be the basis for retrofitting and installing water play equipment.
Photo courtesy of Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc.

As the family leisure aquatic field expands manufacturers and designers have introduced a new water play experience. The array of these new water play devices and equipment is numerous as are their settings--dry deck pools, spray decks, spray pools and bubbling wading pools.

These wet devices and equipment are not covered by the existing ASTM F15 Standards (consumer products). However, the growth of the leisure aquatic centers featuring these devices has necessitated a hard look at creating safe, uniform guidelines to prevent a whole new array of injuries. The results are an obvious conflict between ASTM F8 Standards (sports equipment and facilities) and ASTM F24 Standards (amusement rides). The F24 Amusements Committee has assumed the responsibility to clarify the matter and has a detailed standard that must adhere to the efforts of F15.29's (standard on playground equipment for public use) Task Group on Water Play Equipment chaired by J. P. Scott. Other members, including Dr. Mittelstaedt, M. L. Iverson, W. Mitchell and several water play manufacturers, had produced several draft standards in response to a proposal request to ASTM by Dr. Mittelstaedt in 2001. Following a year and a half of drafts the F24 Committee on Amusements petitioned ASTM to assume jurisdiction of this effort. In 2003 the effort was transferred to F24 Amusement Rides and Attractions under Task Group Chair R. A. Briggs.

In December 2004, the F24 Committee issued its first draft of WK1074 New Standard Practice for Manufacture, Construction,Operations, Maintenance and Water Qualityof Interactive Aquatic Play Equipment. This excellent draft would provide a baseline for retrofitting and installing water play equipment.

The public will then benefit as they will have the comfort of knowing that the proliferation of these devices and equipment has been conformed to well thought out standards as those for the playground. The purchasing agent will have a consistent point of reference to refer to when purchasing water-related play equipment, as will the landscape architect specifying water park equipment. The manufacturer will have a base level of safety criteria for developing products. The benefits of such an effort will be universal among the user, provider and manufacturer and result in a reduction of injuries.

The use of the new standard for "Interactive Aquatic Play Equipment" as it is presently termed will principally be by those producing, selling and buying equipment for installation in family leisure aquatic environment.

By nature, the aquatic leisure centers invite children to interact with one another and with the water. The opportunity for conflicts and the spread of diseases along lines similar to those encountered with swimming pools has led California and Florida to scrutinize these installations on the basis of heath codes.
Photo courtesy of Sun Ports International

Wet Equipment/Devices and Features in the Early Standard

The definition of this equipment in the draft included climbable and climbable-resistant water play components, composite aquatic play structures, user controls, water sprays, fountains and water slides. The water play components are for use in aquatic play areas for all public use. It applies to equipment located in and around recirculated and potable water recreational facilities such as swimming pools, children pools, activity pools, wave pools, lazy rivers, slide pools and spray decks. It does not cover play equipment that does not have an entry or an exit onto or into a wet deck, wading pool, swimming pool, or aquatic recreation pool or playground equipment for public use when water is not applied to the equipment elements or to water rides such as log flumes, raft rides, waterslides, and other attractions in which the user is sitting. As a result, equipment generally installed adjacent to, onto or within swimming pools, wading pools or other wet areas should applicable to this new standard. It also included devices and equipment that encompassed or is encompassed by water flows, releases or other water delivery systems onto or within the equipment and its use-zone. The use-zone has a wet surface that should be covered by an impact attenuating product if there is a fall potentiality or by other products if there is no fall potential. However, both materials must meet the tests for slip resistance as water at whatever depth can create a slipping, sliding or hydro-planning condition.

Interactive Water Features

Interactive water features (or dry-deck fountains or deck-level fountains, as they are also known) have gained a high enough profile that they are now being regulated in at least two states. By nature, these designed environs invite children to interact with the water. The opportunity for conflicts and the spread of diseases along lines similar to those encountered with swimming pools has led California and Florida to scrutinize these installations on the basis of heath codes.

The Deck

The deck system of an interactive feature has always been subject to provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act with respect to gaps in pavement. In California and Florida, however, new state codes regulate the amount of water contained in the system, along with the filtration rate and the level of the chlorine residual. In Florida the code further specifies maximum exit velocities for nozzles of 20 feet per second.


Where municipalities require these interactive features be sanitized with chlorine (as many now do), projects may involve the installation of equipment vaults and other fixtures that are subject to the tangle of fire-prevention and worker-safety codes having to do with chlorine or bromine use in confined spaces and other OSHA issues.

Water Slides Over Two Meters Tall

The other types of water-related equipment that were not covered by the drafts of the standard at the time included water slides over two meters in height, dry play equipment for public, home or soft play use; amusement rides and attractions; sports equipment; fitness equipment or competition swimming pool equipment; floatation devices, rafts and mats; inflatable climbers; floating trampolines, swimming pool types established by NSPI/ANSI standards; and product or facility elements designed to provide people with disabilities access to and from pools.

Age Group Use

The age ranges of users considered in the standard were based on family-oriented activity: two year olds, 12 year olds and adults. It is apparent from a survey of the equipment and devices that the equipment should be divided into age groups to prohibit users that could be harmed by a particular device.

For example, young children have been injured by the force of water coming out of water jets and hitting soft tissue areas. The size of openings, width of hand holds and other criteria will vary for each age group. It is widely expected that some devices and their activities will be attracted to the wide spectrum of age groups while other devices will not.

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December 9, 2019, 10:22 am PDT

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