Playground surfacing materials are required to comply with the requirements of ASTM F 1292 the Standard Specifications for Impact Attenuation of Surface Materials. Man made products such as Poured in Place rubber surfacing are Certified by the manufacturers to comply with F 1292 if it is installed and maintained correctly but natural products such as sand do not have certification programs. Poured in Place surfacing is mixed on site so it is not easy to determine if the material is mixed at the proper ration or installed and maintained properly. Surfacing material must have impact values that are appropriate for the fall height of your equipment. On site Impact Testing is the only way to confirm that your surfacing material is appropriate for your playground.
Sports surface testing can also be done but at this time there are no standards for things like Pole Vault pits and High Jump pits but there are groups that are currently working on the development of standards for these events.
We have been working with a group that is testing pole vault landing pads and pole planting boxes.
Synthetic Sports Fields have a different Impact Attenuation requirement than Playgrounds and must conform to the requirements of ASTM F 1936 the Standard Specification for Impact Attenuation of turf playing systems. On site Sports Field Surface Testing should be done at installation to verify compliance; the surface should not be accepted unless it is. Synthetic surfaces are an expensive investment so you want to be certain you are getting what you pay for. The fields should be tested on a regular basis to assure the surface continues to provide adequate protection.
Playground Surface Testing
What is Impact Attenuation?
ASTM F 1487 requires that all surfacing used in play areas must comply with the requirements of ASTM F 1292 Standard Specification for Impact Attenuation of Surface Systems under and around Playground Equipment. Manmade surfacing materials like Engineered Wood Fiber, Poured in Place surfacing, rubber tiles and loose fill rubber products are be lab tested for Impact Attenuation. The lab test will indicate the “critical height” that the product protects. Specific thicknesses or depth of material will be listed for specific “critical heights”. When purchasing these products you should always make sure that the product you select will protect children from a fall equal to or exceeding the “fall height” of the equipment and require that the supplier provide you with copies of the certification. It is a good idea to specify a product that exceeds the requirement for the “fall height” because all materials will lose some Impact Attenuation value over time.
If you use natural materials such as sand or wood mulch, Table 2 on page 11 of the Consumer Product Safety Commission Public Playground Safety (Publication #325) provides a chart that indicates average Impact Attenuation Values for some typical surfacing materials but the actual values can vary significantly.
“Critical Height” is a property of the surfacing material. It is the fall from below which a life threatening head injury would not be expected to occur on the surfacing system.
“Fall Height” is a property of the play equipment. It is the vertical distance between the highest accessible designated play surface of the play equipment and the protective surface beneath it.
Is Impact Testing required?
Impact testing is not required by law. Purchasing a product that is certified to comply with the requirements of ASTM F 1292 and has a “Critical Height” that exceeds the “Fall Height of your equipment is the minimum requirement. Surfacing materials can match or exceed the cost of the play equipment so field testing can be a good way to protect your investment.
Visual Playground Safety Inspections as required by the California Playground Safety Regulations cannot certify that the Surface materials are compliant. The depth of product can be probed and compared with the charts provided by the manufacturers but Impact testing is the only way to be sure that the product you have installed meets or exceeds the requirements.
How is Impact Testing done?
ASTM F 1292 requires that at least three impact sites be tested in each play area. The test requires that a head form be dropped from the fall height of the play equipment three times at each impact test site. The test results of the second and third drop from each site to be averaged and recorded. The head form is attached to a hand held device that records the G-max and HIC values of each drop. The G-max is the maximum deceleration of gravity. The HIC is Head Impact Criteria or the measure of impact severity and duration. A full understanding is not necessary but if you would like the full explanation please read ASTM F 1292. The important thing to remember is that the G-max reading must be less than 200 and the HIC reading must be less than 1000.
Impact testing requires the use of a piece of equipment known as the Triax 2000 which is a tripod that holds the head form at the proper fall height. The head form is held with an electromagnet and released for a free fall to the surface. The test normally takes about 1 1/2 hours per play area.
How do I schedule Impact Testing for my play area and how much does it cost?
There are only a few companies in California that provide Impact Testing. There is no set fee for the test and the cost will vary depending on the company doing the test, the travel time and the number of sites to be tested. The low price can run as low as $400 to $500 and range to as high as $1000 – $1200 per site. Please call or email if you are interested in a quote for impact testing. Your first priority should be having the playground equipment certified.
Sports Field Surface Testing
California has Playground Safety Regulations that require all play areas to be inspected and approved before they are opened to the public but there is no law that applies to sports fields.
Is Sports Field Impact Testing required?
There have been numerous serious injuries on high schools and professional sports fields recently but there is no mandatory requirement for Impact Attenuation testing of sports field surfaces to limit the effects of these injuries.
Synthetic sports fields have become very popular due to the high demand for playable fields in all weather. Because of the cost of developing and maintaining a good synthetic field it makes sense to have Impact Testing performed as soon as fields are completed to assure that the field has been installed to meet the requirements of ASTM 1936 and to establish a base reading which future tests can be compared with. Sports fields should be retested every year or two to extend the life of the surfacing and to assure that they continue to provide the required protection for the players.
How is Sports Field Impact Testing done?
ASTM F 1936 is the Standard Specification for Impact Attenuation of Turf Playing Systems. It describes a test method and sets the maximum impact attenuation for all types of installed turf playing systems. The turf playing system typically includes field areas within the inbounds lines and areas outside the inbounds lines extending to the sport specific limit lines as defined by the appropriate regulating body or appropriate standard, or both. All of these locations are areas where an athlete should expect compliant impact attenuation characteristics.
ASTM F 1936 specifies 8 specific locations that must be tested on each field and each site must be tested 5 times. The five test values are averaged at each location. This drawing shows the typical testing pattern required by ASTM F 1936. The Impact Test requires a different piece of equipment than the equipment used for playground surfacing. We use the “A” Missile. This devise drops a 20# head form from a height of 24 inches. The Average Gmax must be less than 200 at each site.