Breaking Falls Safely – Home Playground Equipment

Although we often hear of the children injured on public playgrounds, over 50,000 youngsters suffer from accidents annually on home playground equipment. Time and planning are essential when considering installation of such equipment. Although it is beneficial to provide your children with a physical outlet, securing their safety should always be the first matter of business.

Since the majority of injuries are the result of falls, exceptional care must be taken when selecting protective surfacing. Never place playground equipment over asphalt or concrete. If a child falls on these surfaces, serious head injuries can occur. Choose softer surfaces with some give. Some people consider grass such a surface, however, turf has a tendency to lose its shock absorption capabilities over time as it becomes compacted. Although grass is better than concrete, consider the following surface coverings instead:

§ Finely crushed gravel

§ Sand

§ Fine woodchips

§ Playground approved rubber matting or rubber mulch

It is not necessary to cover the entire playground surface in shock absorbing material, as this can be quite expensive. Identify the places where a fall may be likely and cover these areas 6 feet in all directions. If the highest fall point is up to 6 feet, you will need at least 6 inches of surface material. Use 12 inches of material for any height over 6 feet.

If you have swings on your play set, these must also have safe landing spots. Make a 6-foot outline from the outer edge of the swing set on both sides. Make an outline in the front and back of the swing that is twice the measurement from the ground to the swing hangers.

An alternative to spot protection, although more expensive, is to use a rubber matt, rubber tiles or rubber mulch over the entire play area. Rubber playground mats are available in various thicknesses. Be sure to select a thickness that is adequate for the height of your equipment.

Check the depth and condition of your surface material often in order to avoid unnecessary injuries.



Susan Patterson
Best Rubber Mulch / May 19, 2012

According to the CPSC’s Public Playground Safety Handbook, rubber mulch is an appropriate playground surfacing material.

It has been proven that just a 6″ depth of rubber mulch (no need to compact it) will provide adequate fall protection for up to 10′-12′, whereas with wood chips you need to start with 12″ and compact it down to 9″ min.

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