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New Zealand Playground Compliance

March 21, 2023
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New Zealand Playground Compliance

Today’s playground owners are concerned that their playgrounds are not only functional, but are compliant with recognised safety standards. Specifically, they need their playgrounds to be compliant with New Zealand Standard 5828:2015.

The Ministry of Education has the following statement on their website: “This Standard applies to all licensed early childhood centres, because Regulation 24(1)(a) of the Education (Early Childhood Centres) Regulations 1998 requires all items and surfaces to comply with all applicable New Zealand Standards.”

The Education Review Office has some strong statements in its reports on private and integrated schools. Following is an excerpt from a report on a school that was in the process of redesigning a playground: “In the meantime the board must ensure that safe- fall materials are adequate and comply with New Zealand Safety Standards.”

For all playgrounds outside the education sector the New Zealand Standard 5828:2004 is recognised as the industry ‘best practice’. Another reason to adhere to the Standard is that “it is a means of dealing with legal liability issues.” (Standards New Zealand website). Play Matta™ Original is one of the few safety surfacing products available guaranteed and certified as being compliant with all required playground safety standards – right from manufacture to installation – and without further testing being necessary.

Critical Fall Height

REQUIRED by the NZ Standard

Standards worldwide are primarily focused on minimising potentially fatal head injuries in children falling from playground equipment. They were developed from the work done by automotive engineers to predict and reduce head injuries suffered by people involved in car crashes. For playgrounds the prescribed testing regime consists of a series of impact measurements conducted by dropping an instrumented headform from the maximum accessible height of the playground equipment. The headform is connected to a piece of equipment containing three accelerometers positioned to obtain an accurate measure of the time/acceleration trace. The results of the test (where only the highest impact recordings are used in the calculation) are expressed in two measurements:

  • HIC, or head injury criterion. HIC is calculated from the time/acceleration trace and is a predictor of the probability of fatal head injury.
  • Peak, or peak impact deceleration. This is the maximum deceleration experienced during an initial impact. It is expressed as a multiple of the acceleration constant g (as in ‘G-force’, the force of gravity at sea level).

The New Zealand Standards identify a HIC measurement of 1000 or greater and a Peak measurement of 200 or greater as posing an unacceptable risk of serious head injury. This definition of a safe playground is translated into maximum equipment heights for a given playground surface. Thus, if a playground surface achieves a critical fall height result of, say, 2.6 metres and the maximum accessible height of the equipment is 1.8 metres, then the playground can be said to be well within the definition of a safe playground.

Disabled Access

✕ NOT REQUIRED by the NZ Standard

People who have difficulty walking or maintaining balance or who use mobility devices – like children learning to walk or with disabilities – are particularly sensitive to slipping and tripping hazards. For such people, a rigid, stable and regular surface is best for walking, playing and propelling wheelchairs. Play Matta™ Surfacing Systems have been tested and comply with the demanding ASTM and ADA Accessibility Standards out of the United States.

Slip Resistance

REQUIRED by the NZ Standard

The New Zealand Standards aim to ensure that playground surfaces are not too slick, resulting in slips and falls. Play Matta™ surfacing complies with all applicable New Zealand, Australian, European and US Standards relating to slip resistance. As well as this, Play Matta™ was also deliberately engineered with a coefficient of friction that is not excessive, making the surface too ‘grippy’ – a common cause of long-bone fractures in young children.

Fire Resistance

REQUIRED by the NZ Standard

Play Matta™ has been successfully tested using the method recommended in the Australian Standard regarding flammability, and with the more stringent ASTM Standard (in force in the USA). In one informal test a school official attempted to set fire to a Play Matta™ playground with a gas welder. The surface was scorched but failed to ignite.