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Safety Benefits of Bound Playground Surfacing Over Loose Fill

Posted March 11, 2021

In the surfacing industry, there are many options for playgrounds. However, not all surfaces are equal — whether in how they’re made, how they’re installed, how they’re rated, how much maintenance they require, how much they cost, and so on. In this blog, we do a comparison of the most important feature – safety – between bound surfacing and loose fill surfacing.

When it comes to playground surfacing, safety is everything. Of course you want it to look visually appealing and provide for a fun atmosphere for the visitors, but if the surfacing can’t withstand consistent use and keep people as safe as possible, then it’s not very practical.

It’s going to happen — kids fall when they’re playing. Whether they stumble on their feet while running on the ground, they tumble off of a swing, or they fall off the top of a high climber. According to the CDC, more than 200,000 children are treated in emergency rooms for playground-related injuries every year. More than 20,000 of these result in a traumatic brain injury and 70% of these accidents are due to falls. At Surface America, we want to do everything we can to lessen the impact of these falls. Our solution is to create surfacing systems that take the brunt of the fall, not the child.

Impact Attenuation

Impact attenuation is the measure of a playground surface’s shock absorbing properties. This is measured by dropping an instrumented metal form (to simulate the impact of a child’s head with the surface) onto the surface and recording the force of impact and the time of deceleration. This provides a performance standard within the playground surfacing industry.

Surface America’s playground surfacing systems meet critical fall heights up to 13 feet per ASTM F-1292, which is the industry’s standard test to evaluate a surfacing system’s ability to absorb shock.

Loose Fill Surfacing Products

Many people assume that loose products are softer than bound surfaces, since they do appear softer to the touch as you’re walking. However, while loose fill surfacing products can certainly meet some of the industry standards, they don’t take the brunt of the force like bound surfaces can. Loose materials get dispersed easily in the most important areas on a daily basis. For example, loose materials are easily kicked under swings or pushed aside at the bottom of a slide — all high impact areas that require the most protection. In addition, light-weight loose materials, like sand or pea gravel, can become less effective from environmental factors such as wind or rain. In order to keep loose materials where they need to be, someone would need to rake the materials back into place on a daily basis and continue to replenish the material at least weekly and on high use playgrounds multiple times per week.

 Bound Surfacing Products

With bound surfacing, you can rest assured that the surfacing won’t be dispersed in high impact areas. At Surface America, we like to say that our bound surfacing is “where you need it, when you need it – when and where the child falls!” Unlike loose materials that require consistent raking and spreading of new material, bound surfacing requires zero maintenance. No Maintenance = No Worry. 

Surface America features the most complete line of bound playground surfacing in the world. Since 1993, Surface America has completed thousands of projects and installed millions of square feet of recreational and athletic surfacing and flooring. To learn more about our playground surfacing systems, please contact us.

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