Information on Playground Safety and Critical Fall Height


Playground Safety plays an important role in both the management and construction of playgrounds.  Playground flooring is of particular importance as modern play equipment is bigger than ever before, making the risk of injury from an inevitable fall also greater.

Upon completing construction, the playground equipment should be tested in accordance with a ROSPA ‘post installation’ play ground safety inspection.

All Playground Safety Surfacing (hyperlink) has to meet certain Critical Fall Height regulation as set out in British Standard EN1177 & EN 1176.  Critical Fall Height (CFH) Protection is the greatest, vertical, free fall height, from a clearly intended body support, that a given playground surfacing provides acceptable levels of impact protection from.

All fixed play area surfaces such as Notts Sport and rubber play surfaces can be subject to impact absorbency tests carried out by ROSPA.

Although these tests have to be paid for, the fees are nominal and the assessment allows the playgrounds management authority assurance that the park meets the pre determined safety levels for compliancy.  This compliancy alone does not exempt the playground authority from litigation but if the play ground is correctly managed and compliant it should stop a child suffering a serious injury.

ROSPA bases its tests on the following regulations: British Standard EN 1177 & EN 1176.

Play Bark and Play Sand are not subject to the same testing, but need to comply with the same safety standards.  In lieu of the impact absorbency test for fixed playground safety surfaces, a depth test is taken to ensure the loose fill impact area is deep enough to offer an adequate level of CFH protection.

Regular inspection should also form an essential monitoring schedule, undertaken by the body responsible for the playground.  This ensures that, in between completion/annual inspections, deterioration in the playground flooring can be monitored and remediation measures be taken as soon as practicable.

In addition to these tests, standards and inspections, adequate adult supervision is always necessary to ensure safety of young children in play grounds.  The HSE conducted studies and released a statement in March 2009, concluding  that Health and Safety laws pertaining to play grounds ‘were essential in order to strike a balance between the danger badly designed/maintained playgrounds pose and the challenges and development opportunities well designed/managed play areas offer’.


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