What is ASTM and why get a commercial playground?
A commercial playground provides tremendous opportunities for fun, play, and relationships to develop. Every day, all across the globe, moms, dads, and children gather together to play at the local public playground. From parks to schools to apartment playgrounds, energetic children and their parents jump out of the car and run to the playground. From this simple act, children make friends and develop social skills, parents find solace and common ground with each other, and everyone gets outside.
But how do you know the public playground you are playing on is safe? Is there a governing body or set of standards or rules that dictate how commercial playground equipment should be built, installed, or even designed? Or is the playground industry a wild west where every manufacturer is a king unto themselves and can build a playground however they want?
Rest assured, a governing set of standards regulates commercial playgrounds. This is where ASTM standards come into play.
What are ASTM Standards?
Developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM for short), these standards cover a wide range of industries and products intending to ensure safety, quality, and consistency. ASTM playground standards, known as ASTM F1487 – Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use, govern the manufacturing, installation, design, and maintenance of public playgrounds.
In a nutshell, these standards are what govern how our commercial playgrounds are built, how they are installed, and what playground surfacing goes underneath them. It is the rules that we have to follow in order for the commercial playground to pass an inspection.
Why are these Standards, particularly F1487, important for commercial playground equipment?
Why Use ASTM Standards
First and foremost, these standards are all about safety. The standards first cover the playground design to remove potential playground hazards, including falling, entrapment, and entanglement hazards.
For example, ASTM standards specify the space between the playground deck and the bottom of the safety railing. The standard keeps a child from sticking an arm, leg, or head through the gap and then getting stuck. Another example of an ASTM standard is how tall the roofs have to be off the playground floor. Here, the goal is to keep the roofs high enough that children cannot climb onto them.
Playground surfacing is a big part of ASTM standards. Simply put: to pass inspection, a commercial playground that claims to meet ASTM standards must have playground surfacing.
But will any surfacing do? Can you throw down a couple of inches of bark mulch and be done with it?
No. ASTM standards have clear guidelines on what types and amounts of surfacing will pass inspection. There are three important factors in playground surfacing: the height of your playground, the depth of your surfacing, and the type of surfacing. All of these factors play off of each other.
For example, you only need 6’’ of rubber mulch to meet code with even our tallest playground, but if you use playground wood mulch, you will need 9’’ of compressed wood chips. It comes down to how well the playground surface protects a child when they fall. The fancy term for all of this is impact attenuation.
The secondary goal of the ASTM standards is consistency. There are many different manufacturers and many different types of commercial playgrounds, but as long as the manufacturing and installation follow ASTM standards, they will be safe. This allows for great flexibility and creative ideas but is grounded in a sure footing of safety guidelines.
The end goal of ASTM F1487 is risk mitigation. By setting these standards in place about how high, how wide, how tall, how close, what angle, what space, and so on and so forth, the standard greatly reduces the risk of injury. The standards protect children by making every playground include items like hand holds and guard rails. Also, you are protecting yourself or your organization by installing a commercial playground that meets ASTM standards.
Where did these Standards Come From?
So who got to make up these standards? ASTM standards were developed through a rigorous consensus-based process that involved input from experts, industry professionals, and stakeholders. The standards take into account the opinions and ideas of the industry at large.
What benefits do you get from a commercial playground built to ASTM standards?
Enhanced Safety: A playground that is built to ASTM standards prioritizes safety. This allows moms, dads, and caregivers of all kinds to let their children run free on the playground (while following the playground rules, of course) without worrying about whether the playground is safe or not. It is that peace of mind that allows parents to turn and talk to each other and enjoy the whole outing instead of constantly fretting over the safety of their children.
Legal Compliance: When you install a playground, you are responsible for the upkeep and maintaining a safe environment for fun play. Using a playground that meets ASTM standards shows that you care about safety and reduce the potential for legal liabilities if an accident happens.
Quality Assurance: ASTM standards act as a benchmark for manufacturers, installers, and designers. When something meets ASTM standards, there is an expected level of quality attached to that claim. A playground built to ASTM standards means it is high quality, safe, and will handle the test of time!
ASTM standards, while confusing, are an important part of commercial playgrounds. We at King Swings Commercial have done the hard part of tangling with these standards and designing playgrounds that will meet them. If you have any questions about the standards or our playgrounds in general, please call us at 717-687-8210 or email us at [email protected]!