Playground safety surfacing has requirements, also known as standards, to live up to. Whether you’re a school, council, playground equipment manufacturer or landscape architect, you need to understand the playground surfacing requirements to ensure the safety of your playground is top notch.
So, what are the playground surfacing standards?
The main ones you’ll hear about are BS EN 1177:2018 and BS 7188. BS EN 1177:2018 specifies a method for determining the impact reduction of playground surfacing, defining the Critical Fall Height of the safety surfacing. BS 7188 provides additional test methods and performance limits to those in BS EN 1177, for resistance to abrasive wear, slip resistance, resistance to indentation and ease of ignition.
BS EN 1177
BS EN 1177:2018 stipulates that all laboratory tests shall be carried out on a flat, rigid concrete. These are known as concrete base tests. (Alternatively they can be tested on a substrate of sufficient mass, density and thickness that makes no significant contribution to the test result.)
Products installed in combination with natural materials intended to influence their performance (e.g. soil) cannot be meaningfully tested in the laboratory. These tests – known as grass base tests – cannot be used to indicate the performance of the product under other conditions or in other locations. For example, if surfacing is installed and tested on a clay-based soil, it is almost certain that a greater critical fall height will be achieved under tests when the base is wet as opposed to when the base has been subject to a dry period.
When a supplier quotes a certification for a fall height that sounds too good to be true, they may have done a grass base test. You should always check with your supplier, and ask for proof of certification for concrete tests, as these will give the most accurate results. Tests from different companies of similar thicknesses of surfacing will likely achieve different results due to the way the surface has been constructed.
When it comes to playground safety surfacing standards, it is always important to remember to ask your supplier to clarify exactly what ground conditions their product has been tested on. For example, if their test states the mat was tested with a 140mm soil layer and mesh on a grass base, you will need to replicate these conditions on site in order for the grass mats to comply to their certification. This is classed as a composite product, and the safety surface, alongside all its layers must be tested as a whole in order to comply with BS EN 1177.
BS 7188 provides additional tests for abrasive wear, slip resistance, resistance to indentation and ease of ignition, and the results of these tests must fall within required limits. The limitis published in BS 7188:1998 are as follows:
Result required to comply with BS 7188
Resistance to Abrasive wear
Wear Index less than 1.0
Wear ratio between 1.0 and 3.0
Not less than 40 when tested wet or dry
Resistance to Indentation
Residual indentation shall not be more than 5.0mm
There shall be no cracking, splitting or perforation around the point at which the load was applied
Ease of Ignition
The surface shall have a ‘low’ radius of effects of ignition
Upper wearing layer: Tensile strength shall not be less than 0.4 MPa and elongation at break not less than 75%
Lower unexposed supporting layer (where applicable): Tensile strength shall not be less than 0.1 MPa and elongation at break not less than 25%
Other playground surfacing requirements to consider
In addition to everything previously mentioned, changes in levels of surfaces should not present any hazard(s) to the users of the area.
Care should also be taken to ensure that the Critical Fall Height of the surface, as stated on the test certificate, is equal to or greater than the ‘free fall height’ of any playground equipment to be installed in the area. Playground equipment manufacturers will often specify the free fall height of their equipment within their brochures.
If you need any advice on playground surfacing standards, give us a call on 01564 742811 and a member of the team will be happy to help.
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