Rubber playground surfacing

by Tania Wannenburg

Learn about Critical Fall Height and how this can impact the safety of children.

Jeremy Stewart, owner of Seamless Flooring Systems SA, explains the concept of Critical Fall Height of a playground surface and why this measurement is so important.

The critical fall height of a playground surface is based on the height of the highest piece of equipment that a child can stand on. This is determined by the distance between the highest play area of the equipment and the play surface beneath.

It is measured from the highest point the feet can stand on and not the overall top of the equipment. For example, if you have a pyramid, you would not measure the fall height from the tip of the pyramid as you cannot stand on the tip. You would measure from the topmost point at which the child can stand.

This height will determine the thickness the playground surface must have as described in ASTM F1292 (the Standard Specification for Impact Attenuation of Surfacing Materials Within the Use Zone of Playground Equipment), as this test procedure will provide the “critical height” rating for the playground surface. This would be the approximate height below the level that could cause a life-threatening head injury.

When looking for playground surfacing, it is very important to have the manufacturer or installer provide the playground critical fall height rating of their materials. An inferior playground surface can result in a severely injured, or even worse, fatally injured child.

The money saved by installing an inferior surface thus becomes unimportant, not to mention the legal liability that would result. You cannot put a price on the safety of the children in your playground.

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