ASTM declares grass unsafe for children?

If you’ve visited a playground recently and thought “Whatever happened to the grass?”, you can thank the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), for whom grass does not have appropriate “impact attenuation” to be a safe playground surface.

And the next playground installed in your community could be still more ugly, unnatural, and ridiculously expensive, thanks to the ASTM’s plans to further increase the impact standard for playground safety surfacing.  Doing so will

1) Increase the cost of protective surfacing under playground equipment
2) Reduce the height of already dumbed-down playground equipment
3) Require large-scale replacement of existing safety surfacing at playgrounds and
4) Further increase playground liability.

Few people who visit Playscapes to see images of great playground design are aware how much design choices, particularly in the US, are constrained–and made terribly expensive–by safety regulations.  Even fewer, I think, are aware of how those regulatory decisions can be influenced by people who may profit from them.  And this safety surfacing change is being pushed through by a “small group” within the ASTM committee.

Hmm…who might benefit from this change?  Safety surfacing manufacturers perhaps?  Suppliers of the device that tests playground safety surfaces?  I’m sure I don’t know…do you?

There is no clear science to support this burdensome regulatory change, and if the US makes the changes, other countries will be compelled to do so as well.   Everyone that builds a playground is already being forced to pour a huge portion of their budget into the ground (literally) for surfacing rather than into the playable landscape.  This is ridiculous.  I hope the ASTM will act as the independent and thoughtful body it is designed to be, and say “no”  to publishing a poorly considered new standard on safety surfacing.

See more commentary at Tim Gill’s blog rethinking childhood, and thanks to Tim for alerting me to this issue.

Reportedly, the ASTM is considering the new safety surfacing regs today, March 4.   Don’t be afraid to voice your opinion on the matter…the ASTM has a public mission.  Just send a quick message to the ASTM staff member assigned to the standards:   Joe Koury .  Say that you’re opposed to the new Standard in respect of IAS (Impact Absorbing Surface) being proposed by the ASTM playground surfacing committee.

(And to the manufacturers who will send me hatemail over this…just don’t, okay?   It will make you look ridiculous if I print it, and the blog already loses money so threats just. don’t. matter.)

7 Responses to “ASTM declares grass unsafe for children?”

  1. Tor Roykenes said:

    Is it like i understand in this article, not alowed to use gras as any surface for any fallhigt? becouse here in europe we stil use gras up to 1 meter fre fallhight.

    April 07, 2015 at 1:39 am

  2. Carmen Valle said:

    Trabajo en la creación de nuevos espacios de juegos en mi país para la primera infancia ,gracias a las restriciones de seguridad que hay los patios de juegos de los niños los lugares de juegos son unos desiertos,parece que pasa en todos lados

    March 24, 2015 at 4:42 pm

  3. Jackson Blalock said:

    In discussions of ASTM’s recent actions, their main concern appears to be on SAFETY [whether or not their judgement actually makes safer spaces]. I’ve seen governing agencies equally concerned with LONGEVITY of designs, and they rely on ASTM standards to guarantee this as well.

    In my home of New Orleans, the parks + rec department (NORDC) is great but underfunded, meaning several parks are maintained by community groups. Community-maintained parks have incorporated more forward-thinking installations due to their regular on-the-ground involvement and lack of reliance on taxpayer dollars. I.e., community-managed parks can incorporate native plantings instead of artificial turf. I can’t help but associate this situation with grass falling out of favor: is ASTM not only risk-averse, but also maintenance-averse?

    March 08, 2015 at 8:02 pm

  4. Tim Gill said:

    I have just heard that ASTM has put the HIC proposal on hold. The issue has been referred back to the relevant committee, which meets again in May. This is great news, as it will allow for further consideration. It may – I stress may – also pave the way for the broad, transparent review I and many others have been calling for. Thanks to everyone who supported that call. For more news, check my website from time to time.

    March 04, 2015 at 5:40 pm

  5. Jay Beckwith said:

    I’ve just done a blog post at Playground Professionals calling for a moratorium on the use of rubber “safety” surfaces as I suspect that they actually increase long bone injuries. There are a number of other advocates who are turning up the heat on ASTM. Thanks for adding your voice.

    March 04, 2015 at 11:07 am

  6. Michael Cohen said:

    The only response is to thumb ones noses at them. They won’t change. If anything, the rules get more onerous and stifling of meaningful play.

    Playground owners have to assume the risk, however.

    And there’s the rub.

    March 04, 2015 at 11:00 am

  7. Cynthia Gentry said:

    Email sent and your article posted online. Thanks. This is absurd. Let’s work to make it EASIER to create wonderful places for children to play, not harder.
    Tim and Bernard’s article is excellent, I recommend everyone read it if possible at the link above.

    March 04, 2015 at 10:59 am

Leave a Reply