It’s National Playground Safety Week – a time to reflect on our own fond memories and the joy as adults watching children burst with excitement as they climb, explore, and engage with other children – completely unaware of how essential the experience is to their own personal growth. Playgrounds play a critical role in developing physical wellbeing, coordination, and socialization skills. As children enjoy time on the playground, they take in new sensory information and develop their ability to reason, communicate, and interact with the world around them. Our landscape architecture team has designed dozens of playgrounds in recent years and bring specialized certification in playground safety.
It is revolutionary how far playground design and materials have evolved over the years – from galvanized steel pipe construction, strikingly vertical and horizontal elements, ladders, chains, and hard surfacing (all of which are considered dangerous by today’s standards) to softer, safer, and more creative and engaging equipment. Wood chips, mulch, gravel, and rubber surfacing now provide safer play and a much softer landing.
Osborn Consulting’s landscape architecture team designs playgrounds that engage the senses in exciting ways while creating a safer environment for children to take risks and explore. Martina Wirtl, a Landscape Architect and Senior Project Manager at OCI, is a Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI), and a critical team member, collaborating with school districts and playground equipment vendors to design age-appropriate play that fosters a safe environment. She works to understand the unique needs of each school or park and customizes practical and creative solutions for equipment and site design.
Whether Martina is in the design process for a new playground or performing an onsite inspection, some of the areas she focuses on are:
- Inadequate ground surfaces: maintaining a certain level of surface cover thickness and ensuring protective surfacing extends a minimum of 6 feet in all directions from the play equipment.
- Unprotected elevated play areas: checking that play equipment platforms that are higher than 30 inches have guardrails or protective barriers.
- Sharp edges or points: making sure that play equipment is free from sharp corners.
- Tripping hazards: ensuring that items such as exposed concrete footings, tree stumps/roots, and rocks are resolved to avoid potential hazards.
A safe and well-designed playground creates an environment conducive to exploration, challenge taking, and emotional and physical development – providing kids with essential life skills, good habits, and self-confidence, and promoting a lifelong love for the outdoors. We are passionate, collaborative partners creating playgrounds throughout the PNW that provide safe and engaging spaces for future generations. And the best result? Active and happy kids.