Platforms and walkways are great places for groups of children to gather, move around, and play together, allowing for more social interaction and cooperation. Play surfaces are any flat, elevated areas that children can sit, stand, or walk on, but because they are frequently elevated, it is important that they align with regulations outlined in the Certified Playground Safety Inspector Manual in order to prevent falls.
Elevated platforms are a key element in many playgrounds, enabling access to a variety of other equipment including slides and monkey bars. They are an integral part of the structure of any great playground. They also, however, present several safety risks. It is important that your playground is compliant when it comes to platform access, which should be targeted to the age group expected to most frequently use the playground.
Platforms and walkways will be a part of a larger playground structure incorporating several elements. The outermost edge of the entire structure needs to be six feet away from any other structure.
Guardrails and Barriers
Guardrails and barriers should be used to prevent children from falling through openings around the platform or walkways. Falls are one of the most common playground injuries.
The specific size and placement of the guardrail depends on the age of the children expected to use the playground. For children aged 2-5, the guardrail should reach a height of at least 29” with a lower opening no higher than 23”. Any platform that is over 20” high needs a guardrail. For older children, it should reach at least 38” with a lower opening no higher than 28”. The platform, however, will not need a guardrail unless it is over 30” in height.
Stairs and ramps will not need a guardrail over their entrance points, but any adjacent component will need one if the opening is greater than 15” wide. Access will need to be provided to adjacent platforms as well if the height difference between them is greater than 12” for preschool-aged children and 18” for older children. These regulations will help prevent children from falling while on the platform or from falling off the platform altogether.
Keep accessibility in mind when designing platforms and platform access so that children with wheelchairs can also use the playground. It is important to design ramps and platforms large enough but that are also difficult for wheelchairs to slide off of. To keep a platform safe for wheelchair use, horizontal openings between edges and railings cannot exceed ½”. Use professional judgment and consulting when building a platform structure to ensure that the design is able to easily accommodate the specific need.