Inspection Gauges and Tools

Inspection Gauges and Tools

Playground inspectors use a wide array of gauges and tools in their inspections to be sure playgrounds meet the safety specifications detailed in the appropriate ASTM International (ASTM) Standards and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Public Playground Safety Handbook.

Inspectors learn what the tools are and how to use them when taking the Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) training sponsored by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). The basic playground inspector’s tool kit obtained through the NRPA consists of three dimensional plastic probes and several gauges. The probes represent a child’s body parts and are used to evaluate rigid and non rigid openings on playground equipment to test for entrapment. The gauges are used to test for entanglement and protrusions. There are other tools and gauges available that can also assist an inspector in identifying potential safety hazards in play equipment.

The NRPA inspector’s kit consists of four protrusion gauges, a torso probe, a head probe, and a partially bound opening probe, also known as a fish probe because of its shape. Descriptions and sketches of these gauges can be found in ASTM Standard F14871 and in the CPSC Handbook.2

Additional tools used for playground equipment testing are dowels to measure potential pinch or crush hazards, a caliper to measure various pipe diameters, and a level to measure angles and slope. A list of items recommended for playground inspectors to use during audits and inspections is provided in the CPSI training materials.3

Inspecting playground surfacing is also done during a playground audit or safety inspection. Common digging and measuring tools can be used to inspect the depth of loose fill or unitary synthetic materials. Testing for impact attenuation is usually done in a testing laboratory but can be done on site using an instrument called Triax 2000.4

A typical checklist of tools for audits and safety inspections used by Playground Medic professional playground inspectors is as follows:5

  • Clipboard and pencils
  • NPSI Probe Kit
  • 4 Protrusion Gauges
  • Partially bounded opening head and neck entrapment probe (Fish Probe)
  • Small torso probe
  • Large head probe
  • Camera and extra batteries
  • Ice pick or thin bladed screwdriver with long shaft to test thickness of rubber surface and to test for wood rot and structural integrity and to test the depth of other surfacing materials
  • 100’ measuring tape or measuring wheel
  • 25’ wide measuring tape
  • Garden claw or spade to dig surfacing test holes
  • Small hand shovel or trowel to clean out surfacing holes
  • Carpenter’s level or mechanical level to measure angles and slope
  • Caliper to measure outside diameter of pipe
  • 5/16” neoprene rod or dowel rod
  • 3/16” neoprene rod or dowel rod
  • 5/8” neoprene rod or dowel rod
  • Step ladder to check swing hanger assemblies
  • 1. ASTM International(ASTM) Standard F 1487-11, “Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use,” Annex pages 22-31, Figures A1-4, A1-5, A1-6, A1-12 and A1-13.
  • 2. U.S. Consumer product Safety Commission (CPSC) “Public Playground Safety Handbook,” pages 45-48, Appendix B Playground Testing.
  • 3. “Items Recommended to be Used for Playground Safety Audits.” Certification Course for Playground Safety Inspectors Manual 2009. p. IV-61.
  • 4. “Triax 2000 Surface Impact Tester.” Canadian Playground Advisory Inc. < > 17 March 2011.
  • 5. Playground Inspection Manual. Playground Medic, Hawthorne, NY.