Public Playground Equipment

Playground injury litigation is about to get more difficult, i.e. finding additional defendants. The American Society of Testing Materials is in the process of approving new requirements for ASTM 1487-17 (Title of Standard, Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use) Section 11: Installation.

The new ASTM standard reads:

11.2 Owner’s/Operator’s responsibilities:

11.2.1 The owner/operator or their designated representative shall follow the designer’s and manufacturer’s instructions and procedures to install all play structures and impact attenuating surfacing in accordance with appropriate standard specification and accessibility where applicable.

11.2.2 Prior to the playground’s first use, the owner/operator shall obtain written verification from a qualified person that the playground equipment and impact attenuating surfacing have been installed in accordance with the requirements of 11.2.1.

Public playground equipment must have the manufacturers name on each piece of play equipment. Manufacturers must have a record of when the equipment was sold and shipped to the end user. Does public playground equipment liability responsibility pass from the manufacturer/supplier to the end user agency? Or, does the end user of public playground equipment or its retained “qualified person” assure all the liability for a defective or dangerous item or public playground equipment?

No longer will the park maintenance personnel be able to substitute a regular nut for a lock nut, or a hardware store chain for a manufacturer’s chain. All replacement parts will have to come from the manufacturer to assure the “certification” of the equipment.

The 2010 study of public playground injuries by the U.S. Consumer Products
Safety Commission indicates that 44 percent of injuries are falls to the playground surface. So, roughly 56% of the public playground injuries are related to the playground equipment and not the fall to the surface.

How long before we apply the new ASTM 1487-17 standard to public playground equipment manufactured, purchased and installed before ASTM 1487-17 was enacted? How long will it take to get all public playground equipment in compliance with ASTM 1487-17? Answers to these questions will come in the testimony of “qualified persons” in the coming years.

The 2010 USCPSC Public Playground Safety Handbook provides a guideline for depth of loose fill surfacing under playground equipment. The 2010 USCPSC Handbook suggests 9 inches of loose fill wood chips will substantially reduce head impact injuries from a fall height of 10 feet (USCSPS 2010 Handbook, p. 11, Table Two). The handbook also says, “A fall onto a shock absorbing surface is less likely to cause a serious head injury than a fall onto a hard surface. However, some injuries from falls, including broken limbs, may occur no matter what playground surfacing is used.” (USCPSC, p. 8, Section 2.4 Surfacing)

Agencies who provide public playground equipment will have to keep “certified” compliance statements and annual inspection reports for all public playground equipment.

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