Playgrounds are an essential part of any school, daycare or community. They encourage social, cognitive and physical development and create lasting memories in a child’s life. That’s why it’s critical for a playground to be safe and accessible for children of all levels and abilities.
Falling causes almost 70% of playground injuries , according to the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS). While falls are unavoidable, serious injuries can be prevented by adhering to playground fall zone requirements.
Not sure what the fall zone of a playground is? Zeager Bros., Inc. is at your service. We’ll explain playground fall zone requirements and show you the best surfacing materials for impact absorption. With the right playground surfacing , your playground will last longer and stay safe and accessible for years of childhood fun.
Playground Fall Zone Requirements
The fall zone is the area that surrounds slides, swings or climbing equipment where playground surfacing must be installed to prevent injury. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the fall zone’s surfacing must extend beyond the equipment for a minimum of six feet.
Fall-related injuries on swings and slides are especially common. To meet fall zone requirements, surfacing in front of a slide’s exit should extend four feet plus the height of the slide, with a minimum of six feet and a maximum of 14 feet. Swings must be surrounded by surfacing that is two times the length of the pivot point to the surface, both to the front and back of the swing.
What is Critical Fall Height?
Surrounding equipment in protective surfacing is not enough to improve safety. The surfacing must also be thick and deep enough to absorb impact based on its critical fall height.
The critical fall height of a playground surface is the fall height below which a life-threatening head injury would be unlikely to occur. A surface is tested in a lab or at a playground site for its impact attenuation, or shock-absorbing properties. The critical fall height is then determined by combining the acceleration of an impact with the duration of the impact, specifically related to head injuries.
If you’re installing surfacing within a fall zone, consider the critical fall height of and required depth for each material. Use our calculators as a guide to ensure that the amount of surfacing material you install meets playground fall height requirements.
Engineered Wood Fiber: The Best Playground Fall Zone Material
When it comes to selecting the ground cover materials for your playground , you have many options. However, nothing can match the safety and accessibility of engineered wood fiber (EWF) . Nearly 75% of playgrounds in the U.S. use EWF to absorb impact from falls and provide an accessible environment for all children.
Benefits of Engineered Wood Fiber
EWF offers many benefits to create safe, resilient playground fall zones, including that it’s:
- In compliance with ADA guidelines if installed properly
- All-natural and sustainable
What is EWF? Small fibers knit together to create a dense, firm surface that, when properly maintained, stays at the desired depth and thickness for optimal shock absorbency. In fact, EWF absorbs a fall of up to 12 feet when it’s maintained at a thickness of 12 inches. With its slip resistance and affordability, EWF is the ideal material for your playground’s surface.
When manufactured by a Zeager-approved facility, EWF comes from virgin wood that cannot be used for lumber and does not come from endangered trees. Some manufacturers use recycled pallets that could seep dangerous chemicals and hide foreign objects like nails. At Zeager, you can have peace of mind that your EWF surface is made with safe, sustainable raw materials.
If installed properly, EWF meets the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines for an accessible playground. Other loose-fill products such as sand or gravel do not comply with these requirements. EWF ensures that all children can easily access playground equipment.
Trust Zeager for Certified Engineered Wood Fiber
Not all EWF products on the market are created equal. Copies of EWF do not provide long-term durability and safety and will end up costing you more time and money.
When you install our WoodCarpet® system , you’re investing in a safe and cost-effective playground base that has undergone a full range of testing. Our playground surfaces meet ADA, ASTM, CPSC and CSA requirements, as well as third-party impact testing standards.
At Zeager, we go above and beyond to meet industry standards. Many of our systems, including WoodCarpet®, are certified by The International Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA).
IPEMA tests products for impact attenuation in a lab — but we don’t stop there. We conduct additional testing in the field to ensure our surfaces are certified beyond the minimum requirements . You can rest easy knowing your playground surface exceeds safety standards and meets critical fall height requirements.
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At Zeager Bros., Inc., we deliver the right playground surfacing that can help prevent serious injuries in fall zones. As a third-generation, family-owned-and-operated business, Zeager is committed to providing a full range of recreation surfacing systems and testing and installation services from our industry-leading team.