John Preston was born in England and grew up during the Second World War. He received a degree from Kingston Technical College in Mechanical Engineering. After immigrating to the United States in 1962, he worked for the National Bureau of Standards, which is now known as the National Institute for Standards and Technology. He also worked for the newly-formed National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). While working for NHTSA, he wrote and presented many papers on various aspects of safety at the annual conventions of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE).
Congress created the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) as an agency with the passage of the Consumer Product Safety Act in 1972. Two years later, because of his concerns for public safety, Preston began working for the CPSC. Along with a team of epidemiologist, health scientists, human factors specialists, and engineers, Preston led the development of the U.S. Government safety standards, which are now used worldwide. These included standards on the technical requirements used for determining hazardous sharp edges or points and potentially harmful small parts in children’s products.
Preston was an expert on playground safety. In 1981, he worked with the Consumer Public Safety Commission to publish the Handbook for Public Playground Safety (two volumes). This handbook consisted of fundamentals, such as safety in surfacing and hazards in entrapment, and addressed many other safety issues in the playground industry. These two volumes were rewritten into one book in 1991. This book was the basis of the current ASTM International (ASTM) F1487 publication, the Standard Consumer Safety Specification for Play Equipment for Public Use.
Because of the ASTM standards and the CPSC, playgrounds across the country have become safer places for children. Preston revised and updated the handbook in order to clarify the different recommendations and keep it current. This handbook has become a very important part of the playground industry and is known by those in the industry as “Preston’s Handbook.”
Preston also was committed to updating voluntary safety standards. He represented the CPSC on many ASTM technical committees to develop the voluntary safety standards for a number of children’s products, which included home, public, and playground equipment for children under the age of two. In 1991, for his work on these projects and his dedication to children’s safety, Preston was awarded the Margaret Dana Award from ASTM.1
- 1. Tinsworth, Debbie. CPSC. “National Safety Advocate Retires after 25 years of distinguished service with the CPSC”, National Playground Contractors Association, p. 14. 10 Aug. 2010.