The International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) was formed in 1995 by a group of twelve playground equipment manufacturers. IPEMA is a nonprofit, membership trade association with the goal of representing and promoting an open market for manufacturers of playground equipment and surfacing.1
The founders saw the need for a trade organization that would provide third-party physical validation of compliance to the safety standards as outlined in the ASTM International (ASTM) F1487. Though these manufacturers were already working together under the auspices of the National School Supply and Equipment Association (NSSEA), that organization chose not to allow the new certification program due to liability concerns.
IPEMA contracted with Detroit Testing Laboratory (DTL) for certification of public-use playground equipment in the United States. With their experience and the guidance of the ASTM E 19062 guidelines, an internationally recognized third-party certification program was established that has been identifying the standards for play equipment through the years.3
In 2010, Detroit Testing Laboratory sold the certification portion of their company to TÜV SÜD America, an international technical services company, which has been working with the European playground standards for over 20 years. TÜV SÜD America's Detroit office manages the IPEMA certification program.4
The third-party certification program provides services for U.S. and Canadian public play equipment and U.S. public play surfacing materials. Validation of a participant’s certification of conformance to one of the following standards is required:
- ASTM F1487-07, excluding sections 7.1.1, 10 and 12.6.1 – Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use
- CAN/CSA-Z615-07 excluding clauses 9.8, 10, and 11 – Children’s Playspaces and Equipment
- ASTM F1292-04 – Standard Specification for Impact Attenuation of Surface Systems Under and Around Playground Equipment
- ASTM F2075-04 – Standard Specification for Engineered Wood Fiber for Use as a Playground Safety Surface Under and Around Playground Equipment5
In 2004, IPEMA moved from their original location in Silver Spring, Maryland, to their current headquarters in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Their Board of Directors, committee chairs, members, staff, attorney, third-party validators, and representatives within linked industry organizations are listed on the IPEMA website.6
Another focus of IPEMA has been the increased communication in the play equipment industry. As past IPEMA President Jack Gonzenbach reflected, “Before (the creation of IPEMA) it was a very fragmented industry. Most of the manufacturers didn't talk to each other. IPEMA has helped foster communication between members. The entire industry is helped by this added communication.”7
To further build on their communication efforts, in 2006, IPEMA hired a public relations firm, Euro RSCG Worldwide PR. The goal of the public relations effort was two-fold: to continue to increase industry awareness of and collaboration with IPEMA and to educate the general public (both trade and consumer audiences) about the importance of free play for children.
During Tom Norquist’s tenure as President of IPEMA, Euro PR launched the Voice of Play, the outreach effort designed to meet the aforementioned goals. The Voice of Play program initially included primarily trade media outreach and grew to incorporate consumer media and direct-to-consumer tactics, such as an expanded web presence and social media tools. To help build credibility for the effort, Norquist recruited several well-known and respected experts in the play industry to serve as volunteer “Board of Advisors.” The composition of the Board has changed slightly over four years, but has included a core group of Joe Frost, Teri Hendy, and Ken Kutska. The Board has been instrumental in speaking to the research advocating the benefits of play.
IPEMA also continues to contribute to the ongoing updating of U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines for play spaces through their Equipment Certification Committee, which gathers feedback from the industry. They also keep their members apprised of economic and governmental issues currently in the playground industry and employ a lobbyist on behalf of its members. Additionally, with other concerned organizations, IPEMA adds a “global” voice to strengthen and enhance the international play equipment market.
To strengthen the playground market, IPEMA has branched out with the Voice of Play website which promotes the value of play. Parents, schools, and other customers can access articles on play and playground safety, gain expert advice, order information kits, participate in a play blog, and sign the play pledge. All of this public outreach is linked to IPEMA's main website.
In 2007, IPEMA added the Associate membership level, which is for playground professionals and interested parties that are not manufacturers. This has broadened IPEMA scope of influence and service. Associate members do not have the voting rights, but they can benefit from bolstered quality in the industry and can network within the industry through their three annual meetings and the social at the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) Congress held each year.
- 1. IPEMA. < http://www.ipema.com/ > 15 Sep. 2011.
- 2. The Standard Guide for General Requirements for Bodies Operating Product Certification Systems.
- 3. “Detroit Testing Laboratory, Inc. Receives 5-Year IPEMA Certification Extension.” Detroit Testing Laboratory, Inc. < http://www.dtl-inc.com/pdfs/press/DTL-Inc_Receives_5-Year_IPEMA_Certification_Extension.pdf > 15 Sep. 2011.
- 4. “Detroit Testing Laboratory, Inc. Sells Certification Testing Activity.” Detroit Testing Laboratory, Inc. < http://www.dtl-inc.com/pdfs/press/detroit_testing_laboratory_inc_certification_sale.pdf > 15 Sep. 2011.
- 5. Op. cit., IPEMA.
- 6. Op. cit., IPEMA.
- 7. Bennett, Greg. “Association Angle.” Today's Playground, July 2001.