Shock absorbing protective playground surfacing around and under the playground has been shown to greatly reduce the likelihood of head injuries to children. ASTM playground surfacing standard testing reveals a significantly smaller amount of head injuries occur when protective, shock-absorbing surfacing is placed around and under playground equipment versus plain, hard surfacing.

The most common testing method involves dropping a metal head form and recording the acceleration/time pulse of the impact. Testing results are then used to determine the critical height rating of the surface.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has provided recommendations surrounding appropriate playground surfacing in their Handbook for Public Playground Safety. According to CPSC guidelines, the critical height rating should be greater than or equal to the fall height of the tallest playground structure. Both critical height rating and fall height data can be obtained from your playground equipment manufacturer.

CPSC recommended unitary surfacing includes:

  • Rubber mats,
  • Tiles &
  • Energy absorbing surfacing.

Recommended loose fill material surfacing includes:

  • Engineered wood fiber,
  • Rubber mulch products &
  • Landscaping type materials (tested to standard)

Inappropriate surfacing includes:

  • Asphalt
  • Carpet not tested to standard (ASTM F1292)
  • Concrete
  • Dirt
  • Grass
  • CCA treated wood mulch

CPSC playground safety standards require playground surfacing to extend at least 6 feet in all directions from playground equipment. For additional playground safety guidelines, view the CPSC safety checklist here.

Additional Tips

  • Inappropriate surfacing commonly results in a tripping hazard. Prevent tripping hazards by increasing visibility and contrasting the color of your playground surfacing.
  • Surfacing exposed to intense sun can burn. Consider installing shade structures to reduce sun exposure and/or choosing lighter colored materials.
  • Older playground models may still have hard surfacing beneath and around playground equipment. These playgrounds should install a shock absorbent replacement.
  • Loose-fill materials compress and move over time, requiring frequent maintenance, particularly in high impact zones, e.g., swing set and slide exit areas.
  • When selecting playground surfacing, ensure the surfacing enables access for all children, including those with disabilities.

Pro Playgrounds offers the best, safest and most innovative surfacing options in the industry including poured in place rubber playground surfacing, rubber mulch, poured in place rubber mulch, engineered wood fiber playground mulch and others. We only sell the highest quality playground and recreational surfacing products, all made here in the United States. Click here for additional product details.