In October of 1995, the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) was formed by a group of twelve playground equipment manufacturers. They 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.
As a not-for-profit trade organization, IPEMA contracted with Detroit Testing Laboratory (DTL) for certification of public-use playground equipment in the United States. The DTL is a privately owned company that is accredited and approved by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA), the National Recognized Testing Laboratory, and the Federal Aviation Association. With their experience and the guidance of the ASTM E 19061 guidelines, an internationally recognized third-party certification program was established that has been raising the standards for play equipment.2
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.3
This certification program involves first verifying a manufacturer's facilities and procedures, such as calibration procedures, test procedures, test equipment, site inspection, and knowledge of safe playground layout. Once they pass this evaluation by TÜV SÜD America, they are allowed to provide their own testing and certifications to show compliance. Detailed annual forms, an annual facility review, and all product tested every five years assures compliance to the ASTM standard.
The resulting IPEMA Certification Seal for Public Play Equipment, which conforms to the standards of ASTM F1487-07, is an assurance to customers that that play equipment is compliant with the play industry's highest standards. A similar IPEMA Certification Seal for Public Play Equipment, which conforms to the CAN/CSA-Z615-07 standard, is available for play equipment in Canada.
This voluntary third-party certification “is a success story of how industry-related organizations, even competing ones, have managed to keep government regulators at bay.”4 Also, as a trade organization, IPEMA is protecting their members by keeping inferior, non-compliant products from succeeding.
By 2003, IPEMA's third-party testing had expanded into the surfacing manufacturing arena, where verification of impact attenuation was needed. Along with this was added the testing for the presence of Tramp Metals in engineered wood fiber. For certification, TÜV SÜD America evaluates evidence of conformity of each product by test results by an A2LA accredited lab over the last five years. Following this, TÜV SÜD America conducts on-site random sample testing and multiple supplier inspections, inspection of quality control programs and installation instructions, evaluation of customer service programs, and an on-site observation of a poured-in-place installation, if applicable.
Once a company has passed this initial TÜV SÜD America validation process, they need to provide written and graphic product information for each product model to be certified. Each year the company, in order to maintain their certified status, must retest a minimum of 20% of its validated surfacing products, so that each product is evaluated once every five years. The company's facilities are also re-evaluated annually.
The IPEMA Public Play Surfacing Certification Seal that is earned conforms then to the ASTM F1292-04 standards and assures customers of surfacing products compliant with current industry standards. A separate Certification Seal is for Public Play Surfacing for Engineered Wood Fiber products that are compliant with ASTM F2075-04 standard.
The four-round Certification Seals earned through IPEMA are separate from the IPEMA logo for membership, which is rectangular in shape. Being a member of IPEMA means solely that the company has paid dues as a playground equipment manufacturer and has an active vote in the organization, but it does not mean that the company's products are IPEMA Certified.
- 1. The Standard Guide for General Requirements for Bodies Operating Product Certification Systems.
- 2. “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.
- 3. “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.
- 4. Stoddard, Curtis. “Curtis Corner.” Today's Playground, August 2008.