Public playgrounds provide children with a communal, carefree environment. Therefore, it is not only ideal but intrinsically implied that any collection of equipment comprising a playground should remain safe. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), there are over 200,000 annual injuries on public playgrounds. And this only includes those that resulted in trips to the emergency room. Furthermore, playground injuries are the leading cause of injury to children ages 5 to 15 in schools.
The most common contribution to these injuries, accounting for three-fourths of the unwanted circumstances, is falls. These falls conclude with either contact to the surface or contact to equipment. Additional hazards derive from impact by swings, crush or shear points, contact with protrusions, and sharp edges. Fatalities are known to result from these factors as well as entanglement. ASTM F1487-17 – Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use exists to limit the likelihood of these life-threatening or debilitating injuries.
ASTM F1487-17 is a performance specification that addresses safety and performance standards for various types of public playground equipment. Specifically, the range of users that the document encompasses is the 5th percentile 2-year-old through the 95th percentile 12-year-old. It does not include site furnishings, such as benches, tables, and other structures that are installed outside of the equipment zone use.
For limiting the possibility of falls on public playground equipment, ASTM F1487-17 sets forth several stipulations. A major part of this is the installation of handrails, guardrails, and barriers on different surfaces, including stairways, ramps, stepladders, and platforms. Including these and their recommended dimensions within the standard specification can be instrumental in obstructing the means by which falls can occur. The document also includes guidance on the design of ramps and accessible openings.
While falls account for most injuries in public playgrounds, they make up only a fraction of the total hazards. ASTM F1487-17 also includes guidance on ways to limit these other hazards, such as protrusions. It also touches upon general guidelines that can prevent an assortment of dangers from faulty equipment, such as only using equipment constructed of materials that have demonstrated durability in the recreational setting, using noncorrosive metals or those that have been treated, using wood that is unlikely to rot, and assuring that users of the playground equipment cannot ingest or inhale any of the materials.
The ASTM F1487-17 performance specification has been significantly harmonized with CAN/CSA-Z614, the Canadian standard for children’s playspaces and equipment.
Regardless of the safety considerations incorporated into the design of public playgrounds, injuries can often be unavoidable without proper parental supervision. In fact, lack of supervision is associated with 40 percent of playground injuries. ASTM F1487-17 does not eliminate the need for parental supervision.
Please note that these guidelines are only applicable to certain types of public playgrounds. You can learn more about the standard specification for home playground equipment by reading our other post:
For a comprehensive list of the other playground standards published by ASTM International, please refer to: ASTM Playground Standards
ASTM F1487-17 – Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use is available on the ANSI Webstore.