Head fractures, broken arms and cuts all occur on playgrounds across the country. School and park supervisors attempt to minimize these injuries as much as they can, but sometimes, injuries will occur due to harsh falls or lack of proper adult supervision. School and park playgrounds all have some type of safety surface to protect children, and even the best surfaces will not safeguard against injury. Still, as a park and school official, choosing a surface either for its affordability or protection can affect the final appearance and level of protection a playground offers.
Sand provides an easy-to-maintain surface that can be placed in any environment, and since it is the cheapest, most school officials will choose sand. Considered a great shock absorber, sand can cover an entire playground surface and prevent major head injuries and fractures, but it also comes with various downsides. School officials must constantly inspect sand for any sharp or hard objects that can be hiding below the surface, while water, especially after a rainstorm, can make sand mushy, dirty, and difficult for children to play on.
Compared to sand, wood chips also provide a great shock absorbing material that can prevent many injuries. For an outdoor playground, wood chips are easy to maintain and will not be affected by water as is the case with sand. Still, wood chips can cause minor splinters if children start to crawl or scrape their bodies against the material. Aside from the minor downsides, wood chips are a great, safe, cheap surface to use.
Rubber mats are a bit more expensive than wood chips or sand. The surface is durable and will absorb falls, and sharp objects and materials can easily be spotted on mats. Mats can break apart over time and may need to be glued together to avoid revealing the hard surface below.
The most expensive alternative, rubber mulch provides a durable, soft-surface solution for a commercial playground. Rubber mulch is cemented in place, but can rip or tear after several years of heavy use. Unlike wood chips or sand, rubber mulch is not affected by the environment and will not grow fungus or attract any type of animal to its surface. Rubber mulch provides the best choice for school and park officials looking to maximize their investment and get a surface that will last for years to come.