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Playgrounds & Safety Expertise

By Arthur Mittelstaedt Jr., EdD, executive director, Recreation Safety Institute

Many groups are involved in developing safe playgrounds, like the National Center for Boundless Playgrounds. This Boundless Playground in Palm Beach, Florida has poured-in-place rubber safety surfacing consisting of a 5/8" cap with aliphatic (polyester) binding over a 3" black rubber base, atop a 4" #57 stone sub-base with petromat liner top and bottom (10" depth of surfacing over the petromat liner).

Myself and many other professionals have been involved in play and playground research and standards development over the past 15 years.

These individuals include: Dr. Frances Wallach; Walter Henderson; Rolf Huber; Dr. Martin Shorten; John Preston; Teresa Hendy; Monty Christiansen; Bud Cosgrove; Betsy Caesary; Tom Bowler; Scott Burton; Voe Frost; Jon Masone; Seymor Gold; Paul Bosch; Susan Gottsman; Esther Grossman; Donna Thompson; Marylou Iverson; J.P. Scott; Ken Kutska; Robert Healtp; Theodora Sweeney; Tom Thompson; and Peggy Greenwall. These people have served in various capacities in bringing information to the public. In addition, the authors of many books, articles and research have contributed to playground safety. There are also many publications that should be read, such as LASN, for continued information on playgrounds and their design and construction to achieve a safe environment for children.

In addition, many people in the employ of manufacturers and installers of play equipment and playgrounds have contributed to playground and play safety. These individuals and their companies are too numerous to mention but have to be recognized for their contributions.

There are many nonprofit and some for-profit agencies, associations and other entities that have promulgated a wealth of information on playground and play safety. These include:

  • Consumer Federation of America (
  • National Playground Safety Institute (
  • National Recreation and Park Association (
  • National Program for Playground Safety (
  • National Center for Boundless Playgrounds (
  • Council on Play of AAHPERD (
  • Recreation Safety Institute (516 883-6399)
  • American Society of Testing & Materials (
  • Canadian Standards Association (
  • Australian Injury Prevention Network (
  • International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (
  • U.S. Access Board Committee on Playgrounds (
  • U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (
  • U.S. Public Interest Research Group (
  • Nat'l Electronic Injury Surveillance System All Injury Program (NEISS-AIP) (
  • National Playground Contractors Association (

There are no doubt others that should be recognized that are not on my contact list whom have significant material on playground safety. In addition, many medical societies, associations and research centers have contributed to the data on play injuries and playground safety.

The National Safety Council, under the auspices of the Community Safety Division, will reestablish its Playground Safety Section, which had in the past been chaired by Dr. Fran Wallach. This section, hopefully, will allow for the collective participation of the individuals and organizations noted, as well as manufacturers and medical and injury-related groups.

At the ASTM's annual business meeting, the chairman, Arthur Schwope, stated, "There are three qualities that define the state of ASTM International: effective, efficient and relevant." Relevance can go to the next step--energize. ASTM has been an excellent catalyst for bringing some of the aforementioned individuals and organizations together, although it does not have the role and responsibility to advocate for safety, but for standards. Safety and standards are intertwined, as standards become the baseline for the level of minimal safety requirements, regardless of the promulgating entity. For example, Underwriters Laboratory, though not necessarily a standard entity but a safety testing organization, has had to produce minimal safety requirements. The Recreation Safety Institute has also been involved in such an effort. However, the National Safety Council, chartered by Congress, has the capability to bring together the diverse efforts to not only set the creativity level for safer playgrounds, but to advocate for safer playgrounds.

The individuals and organizations mentioned in this column are being invited to join the National Safety Council in achieving the goals necessary to making playgrounds safer.

The goals include:

  • developing fact sheets;
  • writing articles in the NSC Journal;
  • linking with related interests;
  • signing memorandums of understandings with major providers and consumer groups;
  • and conducting cooperative training programs.

The National Safety Council's 2004 Congress in New Orleans will feature a session on brain injuries and prevention as related to falls in playgrounds.

Further inquires on these efforts may be direct to

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December 8, 2019, 7:48 am PDT

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