There is no best resilient surface. The type of playground resilient or protective surface you use depends on cost, accessibility, maintenance, performance, safety, and fall height requirements. You want to get the best surface for your situation because falling is the number one cause of injuries on the playground. In fact, according to a particular study done by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), 79% of all injuries on public playground equipment are the result of falls, primarily unto the underlying surfacing.
The critical fall height measurement of surfacing’s maximum performance shows at what height a surface fails to meet the safety requirement of ASTM F1292. You can ask your playground surfacing manufacturer for their International Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) Certification with recent impact test results per ASTM F1292. However, the gold standard for testing your resilient surfacing’s performance, compliance, and safety is to have your surfacing field-tested before opening your playground to the public and have it field-tested yearly.
Playground resilient surfaces fail beyond a certain fall height when the field or lab test yields a peak deceleration of 200 g or a head injury criteria (HIC) of 1000. For example, suppose your maximum fall height on your playground is 9 feet, and your resilient surfacing has a peak deceleration greater than 200g or a HIC greater than 1000. In that case, your resilient surface fails and is not compliant with ASTM F1292. A failing resilient safety surface puts children and users at risk of a severe or life-threatening injury.
All surfaces degrade over time and lose their resiliency. So if your brand new surface is close to 200g or 1000 (HIC), odds are it will not be compliant in a few years or less. If your existing playground resilient safety surface tests with numbers close to 200g and 1000 HIC, then you may need to top up your surface, do some maintenance or have it replaced. Hence, our recommendation to have your resilient surface field checked annually with a device that can accurately measure the g-forces and HIC. The following FAQ’s will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the most popular resilient safety surfaces available for commercial playground equipment.