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Phone call with CSA Playground Standard Committee member Rolf Huber, Thursday March 19 2009

27-May-2013 [9318]

Notes on a telephone conversation with Rolf Huber, Thursday March 19 2009 profile_rolf_huber.htm link is obsolete. He has a company called Everplay, which develops and sells playground surfacing, and he teaches the use of surface testing worldwide. He also writes article on injuries, such as this one: surfacing.pdf-link is absolete and runs a website about impact testing: EVERPLAY03-9-04.pdf -link is absolete He is a member of the Ontario Parks Association and the Canadian Association of Playground Practitioners.

The CSA is closely related to ASTM International, formerly called the American Society for Testing and Materials, which has 30,000 members and is headquartered in Pennsylvania. Huber said that the 1998 CSA playground standard could be seen as an attempt to “manufacture harmonization” with the ASTM.

This year the ASTM will have one of its major “committee week” gatherings in Vancouver on June 17 – although it’s American, the main meeting of the year takes place in Canada once every ten years because the Canadians are very closely related to the ASTM. Huber said that he himself and numbers of other CSA members sit on ASTM committees as well.

He said that the CSA Playground Standard is “unique in the whole game,” and that it contains a lot of “soft language,” which he said means it is oriented to play value as much or more than the specification of technical standards. He said that the Americans have more emphasis on technical specs, while there is an interest at the CSA in a “hazard-based” standard. This seems to mean that the test of playground equipment is the possible severity of an injury. Huber says that children who play in a good playground and have equipment like rope climbers are “doing vector analysis” which will come in handy when they are adults. He also says that broken long bones are unavoidable in good playgrounds, but that head injury is avoided by good surfacing.

He says that while the CSA 1998 Standard may have regrettably been interpreted to tear out some playgrounds for fairly unimportant factors like two-inch height differences in railings, at the same time those playground removals may have had “inadvertent benefits” like getting rid of lead paint on metal equipment.

Huber says that Canada has a much lower rate of “non-compliance” than for example very dangerous playgrounds in Europe or even playgrounds in the U.S. Huber gave the example of Texas, where you can’t sue a public entity and so there is less incentive to change playgrounds.

Huber was not able to give me any new references for playground injuries, although he felt that the Ontario Trauma Registry may have had 2002 information on the increased safety of playgrounds post-CSA Playground Standard. I asked about OSBIE’s statement that the reduction in schoolyard playground injuries is a flat line. Huber said that the schoolyard injury reports include all injuries outside of schoolyard walls and therefore would not accurately reflect improvements in equipment.

Huber said that many of the school playgrounds that were torn down were old and needed to be removed. He says that in 1996 a child got such a serious injury that he ended up in a wheelchair, but he didn’t give more details. I asked him what he thought of the B.C. approach to playground safety developed by Sue Bedford. He said she is an associate member of the CSA, but that BC may have their guideline tested in the courts if their playground safety guidelines are not adequate. He also said that what he has seen of the Dufferin Grove playground on the web site is charming and “very European,” and that if the ASTM technical specs were used on Dufferin Grove, the playground would be gone tomorrow. This was one of the times Huber brought up the “soft,” i.e. more play-friendly orientation of the CSA Standard.