Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 6: Play Areas/Playgrounds and Transportation

6.2 Play Area/Playground Equipment

6.2.5 Inspection of Play Areas/Playgrounds and Equipment Inspection of Play Area Surfacing

Loose-fill surfacing materials used to provide impact absorption beneath play equipment should be checked frequently to ensure surfacing is of sufficient depth and has not shifted or displaced significantly, especially in areas under swings and slide exits. Missing or displaced loose-fill surfacing should be raked back into proper place or replaced so that a constant depth is maintained throughout the playground.

All loose-fill surfacing material, particularly sand, should be inspected daily for:

  1. Debris (such as glass);
  2. Animal excrement, and other foreign material;
  3. Depth and compaction of surface;
  4. Standing water, ice, or snow.

Loose fill surfaces should be hosed down for cleaning and raked or sifted to remove hazardous debris as often as needed to keep the surface free of dangerous, unsanitary materials. Surfacing should be raked to fill in areas of wear (e.g., under swings, bottom of slides, etc.) on a daily basis before use.

Check for packing as a result of rain or ice, and if found to be compressed, material should be turned over or raked up to increase resilience capacity. Play should not be permitted on structures in the area if a packed surface cannot be raked up or turned over.

The number one cause of injury on playgrounds is falls to the surface. Maintaining the correct depth of loose-fill material is crucial for safety. Surfaces should be shock-absorbing (1-3). Cold temperatures may cause “packing,” which causes the surface material to lose shock-absorbing capacity. Other materials, such as glass, debris, and animal excrement, present potential sources of injury or infection. Maintaining loose fill surfaces provides for proper sanitation.
Surfacing is not tested with ice or snow on it and thus its shock-absorbing and injury-preventing ability is unrated. Therefore, surfacing with ice or snow cannot be relied upon to absorb falls and prevent injuries. Sand is not an appropriate playground covering in areas where pets or animals are a problem. Contact a Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) for further guidance. To locate a CPSI, check the National Park and Recreation Association (NPRA) registry at
Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
  1. ASTM International (ASTM). 2009. Standard guide for ASTM standards on playground surfacing. ASTM F2223-09. West Conshohocken, PA: ASTM.
  2. ASTM International (ASTM). 2009. Standard specification for impact attenuation of surfacing materials within the use zone of playground equipment. ASTM F1292-09. West Conshohocken, PA: ASTM.
  3. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 2008. Public playground safety handbook. Bethesda, MD: CPSC.