Falls account for more than 75% of all playground-related injuries, according to the Children’s Safety Network. This safety concern is being addressed with the implementation of the permanent unitary rubber (PUR) surfacing at six public parks in rural communities surrounding Port Elizabeth.
Hein de Villiers and the team from SoftFall Africa in Port Elizabeth have been installing the playground surfacing solution, fitted beneath jungle gyms, at public parks since July this year: “All the park venues are being fitted with brand new play equipment. We constructed all the base installations for the new jungle gyms, installing the PUR surfacing thereafter. To our knowledge, this is the first installation of PUR of this size in Port Elizabeth.”
In addition to the safety factor, PUR turf is durable, able to withstand significantly more wear than grass, and it is low maintenance, requiring no watering or day-to-day upkeep. When it rains, there is no risk of slipping.
Playground safety audit
Sithandile Sipili from the Parks Department at Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, explained the need for the installation: “In 2010, a safety audit on playgrounds was undertaken to check the compliance of playgrounds with the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) on Playgrounds Safety. A decision was taken to install only safety-compliant equipment to prevent possible injuries to the users.”
For this particular installation, De Villiers explained that the client requested the PUR surfacing because of the safety benefits and hardwearing nature of the rubber surface. SoftFall Africa meets stringent European Union standards which have been adopted by the South African Bureau of Standards. This was prompted by the high incidence of injuries resulting from children falling from heights in excess of 0.5m from play equipment. Softfall Africa inspected the site and determined the necessary specification for each site, with all installation according to the SANS 51177 specification.
To create this PUR, the rubber crumb infill – supplied by the Mathe Group plant – is incorporated into a wet mix, creating a soft, absorbent surface. The use of localised, recycled rubber makes this an environmentally-responsible application and the porous nature of the PUR means it will not harbour insects or mould.
Only form of entertainment for some
“Each play area varies in time for completion according to size and ‘critical fall height’ specification,” explained De Villiers. “Each of the installations takes about seven days from start to finish, with a 48-hour settling period before the area can be used. It has been wonderful to witness the response by the children in these rural communities to the opening of the play areas. For many, this is the only form of entertainment and it’s fantastic that it has contributed in some way to providing a space for young children to play.”
Commenting on the community response, Sipili said: “It’s been great! The city has been flooded with requests from several communities who have seen the facilities and are requesting the same. There is a lot of talk about the benefits of the equipment.”