Have you been by your neighborhood playground recently? If so, did you notice any changes in the equipment and ground compared to ten years ago? Over the course of the beginning of the 21st Century, many old metal and wood equipment has been removed because of OSHA-issued safety violations. As a result, the old equipment is being replaced with new “soft” equipment made from plastic and wood not painted with arsenic paint. On the internet, even blogs about old playground equipment have popped up, each filled with photographs depicting old metal equipment covered in chipped, colorful paint.
Tracing the history of playground equipment to the middle of the 20th Century, the first neighborhood and school playgrounds were created in the 1940s and ’50s, with the first playground equipment being a single piece – like a large jungle gym – installed on concrete, asphalt, grass, or hard dirt. All of the play pieces were made from metal. But by the ’60s and ’70s, wood materials began being used, as they were more environmentally friendly than metal and also needed maintenance, which, often, metal playground pieces seldom got, causing rusting and breaking. In addition, the equipment itself became mostly multi-use play systems with linking components. This change was financed by Land and Water Conservation Funds and other community development programs. Hard surface play areas were still common, as they were easier to clean.
Playground safety was officially addressed in 1975 by an organization called the Consumer Product Safety 안전놀이터 Commission (CPSC). After analyzing playground injuries, the organization created A Handbook for Public Playground Safety. Although the recommendations in the book were not mandatory, the book was used as a standard for injuries and lawsuits regarding playground equipment.
By 1981, the recommendations in the CPSC had made most playground equipment obsolete. By these standards, swing sets installed prior to 1981 could cause skull fractures, and certain protrusions or edges could cause lacerations. But, more importantly, was the surfaces under the equipment, as hard surfaces were the cause of 57 percent of all playground-related injuries recorded at hospitals. Playground surfaces now had to be softer.
To have playgrounds designed better and maintained properly, the National Playground Safety Institute established in 1991 the first training program for owners, operators, and designers of playgrounds. Similarly, the CPSC handbook was revised and republished in 1991 with clearer standards. Most of the revisions in this edition address playground equipment for children in the two to twelve age range, rather than the five to twelve range as in the previous edition. As a result, playground equipment had to be less prone to toddler injuries, including platform heights being lowered and sizes of holes being smaller than a toddler’s head.