Proper Playground Equipment Placement
The use zone for each piece of equipment is made up of two parts:
- The Fall Zone: an area under and around the equipment where protective surfacing is required, and,
- The No-Encroachment Zone: an additional area beyond the fall zone where children using the equipment can be expected to move about and should have no encroaching obstacles.
With the exception of spring rocking equipment, equipment under 24 inches in height, and the zone between adjacent swings (see below), the fall zones of adjacent pieces of equipment should not overlap. However, adjacent pieces of equipment may share a single no-encroachment zone.
Regardless of the type of equipment, the use zone should be free of obstacles that children could run into or fall on top of and thus be injured. For example, there should not be any vertical posts or other objects protruding from the ground onto which a child may fall.
Recommendations for Fall Zone
The fall zone should extend a minimum of 6 feet in all directions from the perimeter of the equipment.
The fall zone in front of the access and to the sides of a slide shall extend a minimum of 6 feet from the perimeter of the equipment. Note: This does not apply to embankment slides.
The fall zone in front of the exit of a slide shall extend a minimum distance of 6 feet from the end of the slide chute or for a distance of H + 4 feet whichever is the greater. H is the height of the slide platform and the H + 4 foot measurement is made from a point on the slide chute where the gradient has been reduced to 5o from the horizontal.
Single Axis Swings
Because children may deliberately attempt to exit from a single axis swing while it is in motion, the fall zone in front of and behind the swing should be greater than to the sides of such a swing. It is recommended that the fall zone extend to the front and rear of a single axis swing a minimum distance of 2 times the height of the pivot point above the surfacing material measured from a point directly beneath the pivot on the supporting structure. The fall zone to the sides of a single axis swing should follow the general recommendation and extend a minimum of 6 feet from the perimeter of the swing structure in accordance with the general recommendation for fall zones. This 6 foot zone may overlap that of an adjacent swing structure.
Multi Axis Swings
The fall zone should extend in any direction from a point directly beneath the pivot point for a minimum distance of 6 feet + the length of the suspending members. In addition, the fall zone shall extend a minimum of 6 feet from the perimeter of the supporting structure. This 6 foot zone may overlap that of an adjacent swing structure.
The fall zone should extend 6 feet beyond the perimeter of the platform.
Spring Rocking Equipment
The fall zone should extend a minimum of 6 feet from the "at rest" perimeter of the equipment but adjacent spring rockers with a maximum seat height of 24 inches may share the same fall zone.
The above recommendations for individual pieces of equipment should be used as a guide in establishing the fall zones around pieces of composite playground equipment. Note that in Section 9.2.2 it was recommended that single axis swings not be a part of a composite structure.
Recommendations for No-Encroachment Zone
No specific dimensions can be recommended for the no-encroachment zone around individual pieces of playground equipment. These dimensions will vary according to the types of adjacent pieces of equipment and their orientation with respect to one another.
For example, the recommended fall zone at the side of both a slide and a swing is 6 feet. Since fall zones should not overlap (with the exception of certain adjacent spring rockers), a slide could be placed with its side no closer than 12 feet to the side of a swing. Therefore, there may be no need to add an additional no-encroachment zone. Conversely, it would not be desirable to have a slide exit facing the front or rear of single axis swing.
No-encroachment zones extending beyond the fall zones are recommended for moving equipment or equipment from which the child is in motion as he or she exits. This allows more space for children to regain their balance upon exiting the equipment and also provides added protection against other children running into a moving part.
For a single axis swing, it is recommended that there be a barrier beyond the fall zone in front of the swing if it is located in a playground facing other pieces of equipment.
This article is a excerpt from the "Handbook for Public Playground Safety", Pub. No. 325
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, DC 20207.