Designated Play Surface

A designated play surface has been defined by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in its Public Playground Safety Handbook as “any elevated surface for standing, walking, crawling, sitting, or climbing, or a flat surface greater than 2 inches wide by 2 inches long having an angle less than 30 degrees from horizontal.”1 The definition refers to the smallest surface that a child might be able to access and attempt to play on. This identification is mainly for the protection of younger children from potential hazards.

The designated play surfaces that are potentially hazardous are found on the tops of guardrails, barriers, posts, swing beams, and handrails to name a few. Adult caregivers should be especially watchful for these hazards on older wooden play equipment and custom-made play equipment when supervising children’s play. A Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) is trained in inspecting playground equipment for such hazards.

These surfaces are designated as hazards, because the impact-absorbing playground surface is rarely adequate for a fall from the additional height of the small designated play surface. Surface depth for safety surfacing is based on the height of platforms and overhead events where children play, but guardrails and hand rails add about three feet to that height. Flat tops on posts and swing beams add even more height. The fall height from a 6-foot high platform with an enclosure barrier having a designated play surface would make the fall height of that play event 9 feet.

  • 1. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) publication #325-10. “Public Playground Safety Handbook,” Section 1.8 Definitions, p. 4.