An open letter to ASTM, and to anyone who wants to see a thoughtful approach to playground safety

Bubblewrapping our kids by means of incremental risk reduction is one way to approach playground safety but will it necessarily deliver the desired results? In this post’s open letter, the UK Play Safety Forum asks the American Society for Testing and Materials’ (ASTM) Sub Committee F08.63 on Playground Surfacing to reconsider and open for broader debate a planned major change to playground safety standards.

Rethinking Childhood

The American standards body ASTM International is planning a major change to playground safety standards. This post (including a joint open letter to ASTM from Robin Sutcliffe – chairman of the UK Play Safety Forum – and me) is a direct plea to put this proposal on hold pending a wider review.

The proposal – to tighten up the impact absorbency thresholds for playground surfacing – may sound purely technical. In fact, it is far more profound, as my regular collaborator Bernard Spiegal has argued. What is more, it could have far-reaching consequences, potentially leading to hundreds of millions of dollars of additional expenditure by schools, municipalities and others, the removal of equipment, and widespread playground closures. Its effects could be felt far beyond the USA, given the global push to normalize product safety standards.

Despite its implications, the proposal has so far had almost no debate beyond ASTM…

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