Critical Fall Heights From Your Climbing Frames

The “Critical Fall Height” is the height that is critical if your child was to have an accident by falling from the playset. They can of course have problems or possibly break limbs or fall whilst simply walking but the safety specifications that we all work too is show on the chart below.

Playground Fall Height – Keeping your Children Safe

What is the “Playground Critical Fall Height for Playground mats and tiles and playground surfacing?

The playground critical fall height of a playground surface is based on the height of the highest piece of equipment that a child can stand on. This height will determine the thickness or impact softness to find out the depth for each material used for your playset. Many products are sold as “playground” safety matts, bark or other surfacing but does it pass the guidelines.

ASTM F1292 testing will provide a “critical height” rating of the playground mats or surface. This height can be viewed as an approximation of the playground fall height which is below the level that would be expected to cause a life threatening head injury.

When looking for playground mats, playground tiles or playground surfacing it is very important to have the manufacture or installer provide the playground critical fall height rating of their materials. Manufactures should have this to hand or even online ready to view, why wouldn’t they be able to provide it: if they are selling matting or other equipment and reselling it as safety matting.

How is the “Playground Critical Fall Height determined?

This is often in a test environment but the basics is by dropping an instrumented metal head-form onto a sample of the playground surfacing material and to record the acceleration – time pulse during acceleration. Simply put, how fast and hard the metal head-form hit surface from varying heights.

Note: For both field and laboratory test methods please refer to ASTM F1292.

How is the height of the playground equipment determined?

The Playground Critical fall height of equipment is determined by the distance between the highest designated play area of the equipment and the play surface underneath. This is measured form the point at which the feet can stand and not the overall top of the playground equipment. Many pieces of equipment have tops of coverings so the measurement is not taken form that point but where the child would be standing at the highest point during normal play.

For example if you had a pyramid, climbing up that pyramid you would not be measuring the fall height from the very tip of the pyramid since you can’t stand on the tip. You would measure form the point at which the feet can stand.

Why is the Playground Critical fall height important?

There are a lot of companies out there that would tell you don’t have to worry about the fall height of your playground surfacing. We have seen many playgrounds especially in private pre schools where they will use an indoor outdoor carpet with a pad underneath it. May of the schools can have a long history of injury free play but all it takes is one bad fall by a child that can result in life threatening injuries. Once a child is severely injured or even worse, suffers a fatal injury, the money saved by installing an inferior playground surface becomes very unimportant, not to mention the legal liability this situation can create.


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