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Playground Safety

by Arthur Mittelstaedt Jr., EdD

ASTM Standards, ANSI Standards and voluntary organization standards are used as baselines by experts.

As children engage in more physical activities, there are more incidences of injuries and even fatalities. Not all such activity-related risks are dependent upon the "assumption of risk" doctrine.

Standards such as those promulgated by ASTM as well as other guidelines, codes, and their criteria are established to define the limits of safety. Activities and their equipment and facilities that do not conform to acceptable limits of safety can be grounds for negligence.

To discuss the ASTM Standard as related to playgrounds, it is first necessary to know that there are a variety of codes, ordinances and regulations that can be used as baselines by experts. There are a variety of federal regulations such as ADA and CPSC, state and local laws and ordinances permitting or prohibiting certain activities in or around the playground defining the acceptable limits of safety. These become the key source for establishing a best practice. Know the local ordinances or regulations of the playgrounds in the client's jurisdiction.

ASTM F-1487 is a standard guide outlining the technical requirements for the manufacture and installation of playground structures.

The ASTM Standards as well as ANSI Standards and other Voluntary Organization Standards are used as baselines by experts. These nongovernmental voluntary organizations that promulgate standards of various types are recognized by federal, state and local courts and enforcement agencies as the minimal limits of safety. Such standards are consensus standards that have been developed and improved over the years. They are used by experts in judging whether such safe practices existed at the time of any injury. Standards in effect at the time of the incident must be established as being relevant to the incident and its scenario.

Other citations are sources and are also usable in establishing the limits or minimal baselines for the safe playground that are used to establish the causation of an incident. Such variety of sources used by experts in addition to codes and ordinances and the voluntary standards included: published documents; books, journals; articles; newsletters; learned treatises; papers and research reports; customary practice within as jurisdiction and/or adjacent jurisdictions; event monitoring; checklists; procedures; controls; policies; literature; newspaper articles; memos; contacts in associations; academia and institute associations; organizations and universities.

Standards are documents that can be revised as information and technology are brought forward. The user of standards should ensure that they are using the most recent version of the standard. When obtaining documentation demonstrating compliance with any standard, ensure that the latest revision is referenced.


Standards Table

The ASTM Standards that are applicable to playgrounds are found within the responsibility of three different committees and numerous subcommittees:

F-15 Committee on Consumer Products


  • F-15.09 for F-1148.01 Consumer Safety Performance, Specification for Home Playground Equipment.
  • F-15.29 for F-1487-01 Consumer Safety Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use.
  • F-15.36 for F-1918-98 Safety Performance Specification for Soft Contained Play Equipment

F-8 Committee in Sports Equipment and Facilities


  • F-8.63 for F-1292-99 Impact Attenuation of Surface System Under and Around Playground Equipment.
  • F-1951-99 Determination of Accessibility of Surface System Under and Around o Playground Equipment.
  • F-2073-01C Engineered Wood Fiber for Use as a Playground Safety Surface Under and Around Playground Equipment.
  • F-2223-03 Guide for ASTM Standards and Playground Surfacing.

New Standards to Be Issued

  1. Guide for Poured-in-Place Playground Surfacing Standard Safety Performance Specification for Public Use Play Equipment for children six months to 24 months.
  2. Water Play Equipment by F-14 on Amusement Rides and Devices.
  3. F-8 on Standard Guide for Signage Guidelines for Sports and Recreation Facilities.

F-14.00 Committee on Fences has under its jurisdiction F-2049-00 Standard Guide for Fences/Barriers for Public, Commercial and Multi-Family Residential Use Outdoor Play Areas.

  • ASTM F-1487 is the performance specification for the elements of the play equipment, which covers criteria for materials and manufacture, layout, installation, structural integrity, maintenance and labeling.
  • ASTM F-1292 is a test method standard for meeting performance criteria to establish a uniform means to measure the impact attenuating properties for surface systems under and around playground equipment. It provides the potential buyer and owner/operator with a useful measure by which to evaluate available materials for use as a surface system under and around playground equipment.
  • ASTM F-1951 is a test method standard with performance criteria for providing a uniform means to measure the characteristics of surface materials for use as an accessible surface under and around playground equipment for persons with disabilities per Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines (ADAAG). This measure provides a systematic and consistent means of evaluating the capability of surface systems to provide consistent means of evaluating the capability of surface systems to provide access to playground to meet the intent of the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations 36 CFR Part 1191 Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines: Play Areas (Proposed Rule).
  • ASTM F-1487 is a standard guide outlining the technical requirements for the manufacture and installation of playground structures. The standard establishes the layout requirements for the surface system for each type of playground equipment.

Other ASTM Standards

  • ASTM G53-96 the Standard of Practice for Operating Light and Water Exposure Apparatus (Fluorescent UV-Condensation Type) for Exposure of Nonmetallic Materials;
  • ASTM E303 is the standard for Slip Resistance; ASTM C67 is the standard for Weathering; ASTM E648 is the Standard Test Method for Critical Radiant Flux of Floor Covering Systems Using a Radiant Heat Energy Source;
  • ASTM F355 is the standard for Test Method for Shock Absorbing Properties of Playing Surface Systems and Materials;
  • ASTM F429 is the Test Method for Shock Attenuation Characteristics of Protective Headgear for Football;
  • ASTM D2434-68 is the Standard Test Method for Permeability of Granular Soils (Constant Head) as well as many other standards for pavement and other features used in a playground.

Other voluntary standards that are applicable include:

  • ANSI Standards
  • Z525.1 Safety Color Code
  • Z525.4 Products Safety - Signs and Labels, UL Standards - UL 969 Standard for Safety: Marking and Labeling Systems.

Canadian, New Zealand, Australia and Other Standards CSA 2614

The Children's Play Spaces and Equipment Canadian Standard that outlines the structures and surfaces and other aspects of play space. This standard provides the layout for the protective surface for each piece of playground equipment. The test procedure for determining the impact attenuating properties of the surface system is stipulated in the ASTM F-1292 standard. Other country standards are also referenced, including ISO.

Federal Standards that are applicable include:

  1. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Handbook for Public Playground Safety, Pub. No. 325;
  2. 16 CFR Part 1303 Ban of Lead Containing Paint and Certain Consumer Products Bearing Lead Containing Paint;
  3. 16 CFR 1500 Hazardous Substances Act Regulations, including sections:
  4. 1500.48 Technical Requirement for Determining a Sharp Point in Toys
  5. 16 CFR Section 1501 Method for Identifying Toys and Other Articles Intended for Use by Children Under 3 Years of Age Which Present Choking, Aspiration or Ingestion Hazards Because of Small Parts;
  6. Americans with Disabilities Act, Public Law 101-336: 28 CFR 35 Title II Subtitle A, 28 CFR 36 Title III, Appendix A.


Dr. Mittelstaedt has been a registered landscape architect in five states, a member of ASLA, an officer in the N.Y. downstate chapter of ASLA, director of the NYS Council of Landscape Architects, and has been a two-term member of the NYS Licensing Board for Landscape Architects, including chairman for two years.

Dr. Mittelstaedt received his doctorate of education in play and recreation from NYU, has taught full time for seven years as an associate professor at LIU, and has been an adjunct professor at four institutions and a guest lecturer at many others. He has extensively written and authored several chapters in various publications in the recreation field. He serves on several ASTM, ANSI, NFPA and other standards committees, and has participated in various other association efforts. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Service award from the National Safety Council, and serves as the chairman of its community safety division.

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December 6, 2019, 12:48 pm PDT

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