Playground Safety ConcernsFall Heights
Our natural playground designs incorporate graduated risk for the age groups listed in the CAN/CSA and ASTM standards. These graduated risks allow children to push their own limits in a safe controlled environment at their own comfort level.
Falls from critical heights are the largest contributor to child injuries in playgrounds. At Bienenstock we have mitigated these risks by changing how playgrounds are designed and eliminating the most dangerous components of traditional play structures.
There are numerous studies about children's injury rates. Studies show that:
- Falls are the No. 1 cause of playground injury to children.
- Falls from playground equipment are 4 times more likely to result in severe fractures then falls from standing heights.
- Falls from a climbing apparatus is the No.1 standard play structure component that causes the most injuries.
- Falls from slides is the N0.2 standard play structure component that causes the most injuries.
Fiissel et al, Inj. Preve. 2005;11;337-339
In our playgrounds we have eliminated the No. 1 cause of injuries (monkey bars) and modified the No. 2 cause of injuries (slides), by placing our slides in the sides of hills. By sculpting the hill to follow the shape of the slide we have been able to decrease the critical fall height to 0mm (0”). With no fall height and the protective surfacing zone only being required at the exit of the slide we have been able to decrease the amount of impact attenuated surfacing required, which we consider a budgetary break that can be used for plantings and vegetation.
Our signature component is the Hill Slide. Our Hill Slides are designed to comply with CAN/CSA and ASTM by following the multiple requirements of each section of a slide. Our favourite part of our Hill Slides is what we call the Hoop and Hoop Posts. Using vertical logs as the posts we create a decorative hoop in order to channel children to sit before going down the slide. We use Slide Plantings to prevent erosion from down the sides of the slides; these plantings conform to clearance zone rules as well as creating a pleasant aesthetic.
Our Natural Playgrounds consist of four different surfaces:
- Grass (only in areas where children will not trample it unless used in combination with Durolawn; a product that prevents the crushing of roots and creates a protective surface.)
- Sand (in sandbox areas)
- Mulch (the predominant surface for most areas)
- Paths (stone dust, asphalt, mulch paths)
CSA Standards require a "Drop Test" to determine if a surface is a "Protective Surface":
- HIC (Head Injury Criteria): the measurement that determines severity of an impact to the head on the testing surface.
- Maximum HIC = 1000. An HIC of 1000 can result in a life threatening injury.
- gmax is the maximum allowable acceleration during impact.
- gmax = 200g is the maximum allowable acceleration during impact.
To be classified as a protective surfacing the surface must achieve an HIC of less than 1000 and a gmax of less than 200 when tested from the defined fall height. Protective Surfacing must have a critical height (maximum allowable height of a potential fall) of at least the defined fall height of each piece of equipment in a playground. Critical height drop tests are measured from various heights depending on the equipment. In the CSA there are usually two different ‘defined fall heights’ per piece of equipment, one for 18 month olds to 5 years, and one for 5 years to 12 years old. The ASTM also defines fall heights based on the age groups 2 years to 5 years, and 5 years to 12 years.
Protective Surfacing does not have to be Rubber or Mulch, most soft lose fill surfaces can meet the criteria of a protective surface if installed with sufficient depth.
- Mulch and Wood Chips installed at 300mm (12") depths should be able to achieve a critical height of 3m.
- Engineered Wood Fibre (EWF) installed at 300mm (12:) depths should be able to achieve a critical height of greater than 3m.
- Even pea gravel and sand can be used as a protective surfacing as long as the correct depth and type is used.
The Test is measured from two heights:
- 72.5cm (28.5") for children under 5
- 95cm (37.5") for children 6 and up
- Mulch Depth: 6"-12" (15-30cm) of compact mulch depending on fall height.
- Rubber Depth: ~3" of rubber depending on fall heights
- Standards recommend annual inspection.
- At fall heights of 100mm and 1500mm, the lowest HIC is at the 120mm (5") and 150mm (6"_ depths of mulch respectively, thus indicating that even the reccommended 300mm (12"_ depth may be overkill.)
Because we use predominantly natural materials such as logs and vegetation, the number of sharp edges and protrusions are greatly minimized. All our logs are sanded to eliminate sharp edges left over from old branches, and mitred to prevent sharp corners. All vegetation is selected to not only be native to the area but also have a distinct growing pattern and shape to decrease the number of pointy branches and branching patterns that may create ocular hazards.
Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Manuals
To ensure that your playground stays safe and fun for your children we provide all of our playground clients with O&M Manuals. These manuals describe each component in detail, indicating its intended use and age group. We also describe what to look for regarding malfunction and wear patterns, and how to fix minor deficiencies.
Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds are designed for your children, with your life experiences in mind. They are designed and installed to exceed the safety standards of CAN/CSA z614-07 and ASTM F 1487-07 respectively.
Let your children experience nature in our playgrounds, they’re safer then the Mother Nature that you experienced when you were a child.