Surfacing Maintenance

Playground Surfacing Maintenance Guide

All playground equipment must have impact attenuating (protective) surfacing under and around it. Unacceptable playground surfaces include grass, packed earth, asphalt or concrete, and other hard surfaces. Acceptable surfacing materials fall into two categories: loose-fill and unitary surfacing. 

Although it cannot eliminate all injuries, well-maintained protective surfacing should be capable of attenuating a fall from the equipment's established fall height. For this reason, your role in maintaining the surfacing is essential.

This Low Frequency Inspection list applies to specific types of surfacing. All categories may not apply depending upon the type of surfacing on your playground.

1) Check that loose-fill surfacing is level and the proper depth.
Because loose-fill materials get kicked out and ruts develop in high impact areas, all loose-fill materials must be regularly raked level. Similarly, loose-fill materials must be replenished when the surface level drops below the minimum level required for the height of the equipment in the area.

2) Check that the use zones (areas with protective surfacing) are clear of obstacles and debris.
Toys, site furnishings, and other objects should not be in the use zones. These items and other debris must be removed because they can block fall paths to the safety surfacing, endangering children. In this photo the bench has been pulled into the use zone.

3) Check that the surfacing material drains well and is not holding water.
Standing water can cause moss or mold growth, possible slip hazards, and erosion of the subsurface of unitary materials creating depressions and possible trip hazards.

4) Check that wear mats are properly secured in place and level.
There should not be any hardware or concrete footing visible on or around the wear mat.

5) Check that unitary surfaces are intact, free from depressions, ruts, and worn areas.
Look for general wear-and-tear of the unitary materials, paying special attention to high impact areas like swings and slide exits.

It is important that the surfacing material be able to attenuate a fall from the height of the playground equipment. To properly assess the surfacing material the following should be noted; type of material, depth or thickness of the surfacing material and the height of the equipment. See the recommendations for critical height and fall height found in the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Handbook for Public Playground Safety.

By ensuring proper surfacing precautions are taken, the play experience can be fun can safe for all.

Learn more about playground maintenance and safety.

This list and other playground maintenance tips can be found in our free guide, Playground Maintenance.

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