Appropriate surfacing, partially-bounded opening, impact attenuation, critical fall height, crush and shear, non-entanglement zone, out of service. Do these words sound like the playful language you expect to hear spoken on your child’s favorite play spaces? These serious sounding-words are in every Certified Playground Safety Inspector’s lexicon, and are used when s/he inspects playgrounds. A CPSI’s job is to identify playground hazards in order to protect children aged 2-12 from injury due to the hazards. CPSIs are playground safety experts who apply their experience and knowledge to establish comprehensive playground safety programs that help to prevent and reduce the number of playground-related deaths and life-threatening and debilitating injuries due to falls, impacts, entanglements, entrapments, tripping, crushing, or shearing.
The playground inspection process is time-consuming. Following American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM), U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) standards and guidelines, CPSIs will examine and evaluate playground equipment, components, surfacing, and signage to identify compliant and non-compliant conditions. A CPSI will consider a playground’s site selection, sun exposure, ADA accessibility, age separation, sight lines, activities (passive and active) obstructions, repairs, and modifications.
How frequently should you have your playground inspected? This will depend upon a number of factors: the extent of its use, the type, age, and design of your equipment, and environmental factors. The frequency of inspections depends on your achieving your goal of keeping your playground safe, attractive, and functioning. High Frequency Inspections are routine and custodial; they are tailored to maintaining, cleaning, and doing remedial repairs on specific sites. Low-Frequency Inspections are seasonal and more in-depth. During a Low-Frequency Inspection, a CPSI utilizes information and documentation in a playground’s “history” file, and looks for changes in conditions. The CPSI will inspect the playground by using the equipment as a child would—running, jumping, twisting, pulling—to a develop a plan of action for repairing, removing, or replacing equipment, for modifying designs, or for taking a playground out of service.
Be pro-active! A comprehensive playground risk management program for your playground should involve parents, staff, board and department members, and a knowledgeable, competent CPSI. S/he will help to minimize risks, remove hazards, and establish a standard of care so that all children can play in safety.