Q & A with Phi Viet Le, Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI)
Swing Kingdom is very lucky to have Phi Viet Le as a key member of their team. Not only does he keep operations at Swing Kingdom running seamlessly, he is also a Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI).
According to Consumer Product Safety Commission, in the years between 2001 and 2008, over 218,000 pre-school and elementary children received emergency care for injuries that occurred on playground equipment. Phi shared with us some of the most important home playground safety tips that parents should be aware of before making a purchase.
What is the process for gaining your CPSI certification?
It is a two day hands-on and classroom training on how to apply the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) guidelines to playground environments. On the second day, you must complete a written test and you must score greater than 70% correct to gain the certification.
How does being a CSPI help you do a better job creating playsets for Swing Kingdom?
It allows me to establish a system of repair processes for our customers, identify hazardous design on our equipment, and establish a routine inspection system for both the customer and production.
When you’re inspecting new designs, what type of safety issues are you looking out for?
I usually look at all the equipment layout involved with the design for correct spacing, making sure nothing is too close to each other, to avoid any entrapments. I also make sure that play components are appropriate for the age group they were created for.
What are the most common home playground injuries?
By far most injuries, I’d say over 65%, arise from falls and equipment failure. In addition to that, there are often injuries resulting from collisions, either with other children or the play structure itself. For example, if apparatus are placed improperly, children can “swing” into each other or the side of the playset. Finally, children can get entrapped, their heads or arms, if openings throughout the set are not created to recommended sizing.
What safety mistakes do some manufacturers make when designing their products?
The danger of head and neck entrapment is one the most common issues I’ve found in playground equipment. Any opening should really be designed to less than 3½ inches or more than 9 inches. When creating a play system there are plenty of other blind spots that they will miss on the equipment, if they don’t know what to look for.
What safety aspects do parents most often overlook when purchasing or installing a playset?
Having a safety surfacing under the playset goes a long way. It does not necessarily prevent injuries, but it does minimize the after-effects of a fall, which is the number one cause of playground injuries.
It’s recommended that backyard playsets rest on more than just dirt or grass. What products do you recommend?
I like rubber mulch the best for our product since it matches the best and has a long lifespan on it with very minimum maintenance needed.
You mentioned that falls were the biggest injury threat. What’s the best way to prevent children from falling off playsets, especially those with tall play towers?
This is the checklist of recommendations I make to reduce the number of falls from playsets. But, it essentially comes down to having the right size barrier for the appropriate tower height.
- Platforms above 30 inches up to 48 inches high should have a guardrail at least 25 inches high.
- Platforms above 48 inches up to 72 inches high should have a protective barrier (not a guardrail) at least 27 inches high.
- Platforms over 72 inches high should have a protective barrier at least 33 inches high.
- These high platforms also should have an intermediate standing surface where a child can stop the ascent and choose another route to descend.
- Slide platforms greater than 200 square inches should have a guardrail or barrier on all sides, except the entry and exit side. The choice of guardrail or barrier is dependent on the platform height as described above.
- Protective barriers are not areas of intended play. There should be no crossbars or toeholds that assist children in climbing over the barrier. Openings should be less than 3½ inches in width.
- Guardrails intended to double as climbers should have no openings that would allow a head or neck entrapment to occur (between 3½ and 9 inches).
This graphic for the Consumer Product Safety Commission includes additional home playground safety tips for keeping your children safe in your own backyard.