Surfacing Recommendations

Last Updated: May 15, 2015 01:01PM EDT

Below are some of the recommendations that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) offers from its Handbook for Public Playground Safety. The guide can be downloaded in full here.

Protective Surfacing

Gorilla Playsets Premium Rubber Mulch

Since almost 60% of all injuries are caused by falls to the ground, protective surfacing under and around all playground equipment is the most critical safety factor on playgrounds.
Certain manufactured synthetic surfaces also are acceptable; however, test data on shock absorbing performance should be requested from the manufacturer.

Asphalt and concrete are unacceptable. They do not have any shock absorbing properties. Similarly, grass and turf should not be used. Their ability to absorb shock during a fall can be reduced considerably through wear and environmental conditions.

Certain loose-fill surfacing materials are acceptable. Surfacing materials are acceptable, such as the types and depths shown in the table:

FALL HEIGHT IN FEET FROM WHICH A LIFE THREATENING HEAD INJURY WOULD BE GREATLY REDUCED
Type of material 6” Depth 9” Depth 12” Depth
Gorilla Playsets Premium Rubber Mulch 12' Fall Height N/A N/A
Double shredded bark mulch 6' Fall Height 10' Fall Height 11' Fall Height
Wood chips 6' Fall Height 7' Fall Height 12' Fall Height
Fine sand 5' Fall Height 5' Fall Height 9' Fall Height
Shredded Tires* 10-12' Fall Height N/A N/A
Fine gravel 6' Fall Height 7' Fall Height 10' Fall Height

* This data is from tests conducted by independent testing laboratories on a 6-inch depth of uncompressed shredded tire samples produced by four manufacturers. The tests reported critical heights, which varied from 10 feet to greater than 12 feet. It is recommended that persons seeking to install shredded tires as a protective surface request test data from the supplier showing the critical height of the material when it was tested in accordance with ASTM F1292.

It should be recognized that all injuries due to falls cannot be prevented no matter what surfacing material is used.

Fall Zones

A fall zone, covered with a protective surfacing material, is essential under and around equipment where a child might fall. This area should be free of other equipment and obstacles onto which a child might fall. Stationary climbing equipment and slides should have a fall zone extending a Minimum of 6’ in all directions from the perimeter of the equipment.

Swings should have a fall zone extending a minimum of 6’ from the outer edge of the support structure on each side. The fall zone in front and back of the swing should extend out a minimum distance of twice the height of the swing as measured from the ground to the top of the swing support structure.

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