Playground surfaces not all equal

The surface children fall onto in playgrounds makes a big difference to their safety.
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  • Updated:4 Jan 2007

04.Case studies

Getting a playground right

Princes Park playground Princes Park, Battery Point, Hobart City Council

When the Hobart City Council decided to replace its playground at Battery Point they were determined to maintain an adventurous feel around a maritime theme. So popular elements from the previous playground, like a long slide were integrated into a new ‘adventure ship’, while nets and pommel climbers were installed lower for younger children.

Coarse granite-based river sand with minimal small fragments was chosen as the playground surface because it’s cheap, long lasting and easy to maintain. It’s also easy to clean with daily raking and doesn’t cling to clothes or need as much topping up as bark. Sand was in keeping with the nautical theme of the equipment and in harmony with the historical site. To confirm that the sand surface complied with the safety standards the Council brought in an engineer to test it onsite (the image, right, shows the test rig set up in the playground). The surface passing with flying colours.

A second test of the surface was conducted approximately three months later. While the sand still met the Standard, the test showed the impact absorbing properties had deteriorated slightly. To ensure the playground continues to be maintained in accordance with the safety Standard the Hobart City Council now turns the sand over regularly with a rotary hoe. This prevents the sand from compacting, reducing the likelihood and/or severity of an injury should a child fall.

Bailey spends summer in a wheelchair after playground fracture

Bailey Knowles, 5, had been happily playing on the monkey bars at school at playtime when he slipped off and hit the woodchip-covered ground. Landing awkwardly on his feet the result was a broken left leg with a spiral fracture to the tibia. For his leg to be straightened and set into a full leg cast he required an operation under a general anaesthetic and had an overnight stay in hospital.

According to his orthopaedic surgeon Dr Ivan Astori, the first cast will stay on for six weeks with weekly x-rays for 3 weeks. Provided the healing has been successful a second will be fitted for another three. Bailey will also be unable to play high impact sport for another four months after that and because he’s too young for crutches, his is confined to a wheelchair for the summer.

The school for its part immediately fenced off the monkey bar area from use by other children until its safety could be checked.


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