One of the specialities with some artificial turf manufacturers is their playground turf with safety being a major consideration when supplying and installing. The key feature is that the playground synthetic turf provides safety to the children playing on it to a certain standard for falls from a particular height. The standard in question cites standard ASTM-04 Standard Specification for Impact Attenuation of Surfacing Materials within the Use Zone of Playground Equipment. This is the safety standard that specifies the fall height for which the surface must protect against a serious head injury.

In order to meet the safety standards synthetic turf installed in playgrounds must be soft but it also must be soft enough so that it is not abrasive if a child falls while running on it. A product such as FieldTurf’s FallSoft synthetic turf is installed with a water permeable safety pad that sits under the infill. This pad gives the surface a fall height safety of up to 9 feet which exceeds the ASTM requirements. It is possible to install different thickness shock pads depending on just how padded you need the surface to be.

There are quite a lot of underground base materials that are laid down before the actual synthetic turf is laid. The following cross section of the playground synthetic turf from Southwest Greens Grass Solutions gives you an idea of what is involve.

You can see the where the shock absorbing pad lies underneath the synthetic turf, the depth of the pad in this image is .75″ but this pad can be thicker if required.

When you’re looking for a suitable synthetic turf surface for any playground it’s the G-max score that is important. The G-max score of a synthetic turf system can be altered by adding or removing rubber granules on the surface. The shock pad underneath provides the base protection upon which to build the rest of the impact attenuating properties.

The Playground Surface Standards That Must Be Met

It is prudent to understand completely the standards that must be met by playground synthetic turf systems to ensure they are compliant with the guidelines that have been set out. The following is a summary of the ASTM International Standards dealing with impact attenuation.

Firstly, when you set out looking for a type of synthetic turf for a playground, no matter whether you are doing to search online or in an actual store, you should be looking for the symbol displayed above. This is the ASTM Standards logo and it is granted to products that have demonstrated that their products meet or exceed the standards.

The standards we are talking about is ASTM F1292-09 – Standard Specification for Impact Attenuation of Surfacing Materials within the Use Zone of Playground Equipment.

The following is a brief summary of the standard and is not the wording that is actually used to describe the official standard.

This specification specifies impact attenuation performance requirements for playground surfaces and surfacing materials and provides a means of determining impact attenuation performance using a test method that simulates the impact of a child’s head with the surface. The test method quantifies impact in terms of g-max and Head Injury Criterion (HIC) scores. G-max is the measure of the maximum acceleration (shock) produced by an impact. The Head Injury Criterion or HIC score is an empirical measure of impact severity based on published research describing the relationship between the magnitude and duration of impact accelerations and the risk of head trauma.

There is a further section of the standard to be considered:

The ASTM F1292 clearly states in section 4.1 that “ All surface systems must be tested in accordance with the performance requirements in 4.2 (the traditional 3 temperature laboratory test). This clearly will include not only synthetic or unitary systems, but all systems such as sand, pea gravel and wood systems. Even though it is not traditional, any supplier of a surface should be able to provide test results that support their claim that they can be utilized as a playground surface.

So, just to be clear, a synthetic turf supplier should be quoting ASTM F1292 standards to you to demonstrate that their product will meet the necessary standards to be considered a suitable playground surface.