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Street furniture and equipment of children playgrounds - analysis of used materials in terms of children case study of Niš

  • Faculty of Civil Engineering and Architecture, University of Nis
  • Faculty of Civil Engineering and Architecture, University of Nis, Serbia
iNDiS 2018
Abstract: The safety of children on children playgrounds is the most important factor which must be
observed in their design. Safety must be considered when choosing the material for making of the parts
of street furniture, surfacing material, ways in which the equipment is installed, distance between
individual elements, etc. All this has been included in specific standards stipulating overall safety
requirements for the areas and equipment intended for public children playgrounds.
The paper analyzes materialization of children playgrounds, from the aspect of safety, according to the
standing national standard. The research includes the existing children playgrounds in the city of Niš.
The goal of the paper is finding the level of implementation of standards on the existing playgrounds,
and building awareness of the importance of safety of children on them, regarding that those are areas
where they daily spend their time since the earliest childhood.
Кey words: children playground, street furniture, safety, equipment
Rezime: Bezbednost dece na dečjim igralištima je najbitniji faktor koji se mora ispuniti prilikom
projektovanja istog. Bezbednost se mora imati na umu prilikom izbora materijala od kojih su izrađeni
delovi mobilijara, materijala za podlogu, načina postavljanja opreme, udaljenosti pojedinih elemenata i
drugo. Sve ovo je obuhvaćeno određenim standardima kojima se utvrđuju opšti bezbednosni zahtevi za
potrebne površine i opremu za javna dečja igrališta. U radu je analizirana materijalizacija dečjih igrališta,
sa aspekta bezbednosti, prema važećem nacionalnom standardu. Istraživanjem su obuhvaćena postojeća
dečja igrališta u gradu Nišu. Cilj rada je utvrđivanje nivoa primene standarda na postojećim igralištima i
podizanje nivoa svesti o značaju bezbednosti dece na njima, s obzirom da je reč o prostorima na kojima
svakodnevno provode vreme od najranijeg detinjstva.
Ključne reči: dečje igralište, mobilijar, bezbednost, materijal, oprema
The desire to play comes naturally to all children and its value is undeniable. The process
of playing increases a child's self-esteem, opens a young mind to new possibilities, and
develops social, verbal, and problem-solving skills. Therefore, the goal of designing for play is
simply to create an environment that will be inviting to children and which would enrich their
'work' of play. The main issue in designing playgrounds is to provide challenging and fun
activities while also providing for the safety of the children using the playground [1,2].
The safety of each individual piece of playground equipment as well as the layout of the
entire play area should be considered when designing or evaluating a playground for safety.
Since falls are a very common playground hazard pattern, the installation and maintenance of
protective surfacing under and around all equipment is crucial to protect the children from
severe head injuries. Playground equipment shall maximize the play value and safety, while
minimizing the long-term maintenance. Play equipment shall be constructed of durable
materials designed for frequent exterior use and high resistance to varied climates and
vandalism [3,4].
The selection of materials must be based on many characteristics of the individual play
areas: height of equipment; age of users; dispersion of elements; normal weather conditions;
maintenance costs; installation costs; equipment life expectancy; and environmental concerns.
There are basically two options for surfacing materials, loose fill materials or synthetic
materials. The functionality of the different types of materials is the most significant concern
for a school or public entity that is installing or upgrading a playground [5,2].
What is the force of impact from a fall in a use zone, in and around playground
equipment? These codes provide uniform means for measuring and comparing characteristics
of surfacing materials in order to determine whether materials provide a safe surface under
and around the playground equipment [5,11].
Playground sites shall provide a safe, clean and comfortable environment for children and
adults. Playgrounds generally serve the children of 2-12 years of age [6].
Therefore, age-appropriate playground designs should accommodate these differences with
regard to the type, scale, and the layout of equipment.
Playground sites shall be designed to comply with the most current national SRPS EN
standards which are harmonized with the European standards.
The standards have a key role in reduction and prevention of injuries, owing to their
unique potential to:
Representa technical expertise in terms of designing, production and control, testing,
Define important safety requirements and
Provide information by stipulating provisions for instructions, warnings, illustrations,
pictograms, etc .
The choice of the material for making the equipment and surfacing of a playground
depends on a designer. However, all the chosen and designed elements must comply with the
national standard referring to the children playground safety SRPS EN 1176 which consists of
several parts (the first version of SRPS EN 1176-1 standard in Serbia dates back to 2008. They
were in time harmonized with the changes in the European standards):
SRPS EN 1176-1:2018 - Playground equipment and surfacing - Part 1: General safety
requirements and test methods - This part of EN 1176 specifies general safety requirements
for permanently installed public playground equipment and surfacing. Additional safety
requirements for specific pieces of playground equipment are specified in subsequent parts of
this standard. It has been prepared with full recognition of the need for supervision of young
children and of less able or less competent children [7].
SRPS EN 1176-2:2017 - Part 2: Additional specific safety requirements and test methods
for swings
SRPS EN 1176-3:2017 - Playground equipment and surfacing - Part 3: Additional specific
safety requirements and test methods for slides
SRPS EN 1176-4:2017 - Playground equipment and surfacing - Part 4: Additional specific
safety requirements and test methods for cableways
SRPS EN 1176-5:2017 is pending- Playground equipment and surfacing - Part 5:
Additional specific safety requirements and test methods for carousels.
SRPS EN 1176-6:2017 - Playground equipment and surfacing - Part 6: Additional specific
safety requirements and test methods for rocking equipment
SRPS EN 1176-7:2013 - Playground equipment and surfacing - Part 7: Guidance on
installation, inspection, maintenance and operation
SRPS EN 1176-10:2013 - Playground equipment and surfacing - Part 10: Additional
specific safety requirements and test methods for fully enclosed play equipment
SRPS EN 1176-11:2017 - Playground equipment and surfacing - Part 11: Additional
specific safety requirements and test methods for spatial network
The standard SRPS EN 1177:2018 should be added to these standards- Impact attenuating
playground surfacing - Methods of test for determination of impact attenuation (the first
version of the standard in Serbia dates back to 2008. In time it was harmonized with the
changes in European standard).
This group of general requirements also concerns:
Materials: general requirements, flammability, wooden parts, metal parts, synthetic
material parts, hazardous substances,
Construction and production: general requirements, structural strength, accessibility to
adults, protection from fall, equipment finish, movable parts, protection from becoming
entrapped in the equipment, protection from injuries from movable equipment and falling,
means of access to the equipment, joints, replaceable parts (roller bearings), ropes, chains,
foundations, heavy beams, firefighter poles.
There are three most important aspects, the designers must consider for the start:
Zones of equipment,
Mutual arrangement of the equipment with observation of recommendations and
Choice of appropriate protective surfacing [8].
The paper will consider the surfacing used for construction of playgrounds, and examples
of the furniture designed according to the worldwide and national prescribed standards.
The playground surface is one of the most important safety aspects in preventing and
avoiding serious injuries resulting from falls and tumbles. Hard surfaces such as concrete and
asphalt are inappropriate for underneath swings and jungle-gyms. Even dirt or grass is an
inadequate surface for a playground because constant use compacts the ground and diminishes
its shock absorbing ability. An even, resilient surface that offers protection to children’s limbs
and absorb impact is required. (Children should always be closely supervised in any
playground by a responsible adult.) [9,4].
The most frequently used surfacing is:
Loose material (tree bark, woodchips, shredded rubber mulch etc.),
Rubber matting (either as tiles or poured rubber surface),
Turf and topsoil (only with appropriate and regular maintenance, up to the free fall height
of = 1 m),
Carpet surfacing (with sand and similar material underneat) [8].
The surface of the impact area shall be free from sharp edged parts or projections and shall
be installed without creating any entrapment situation.
Beneath all playground equipment with a free height of fall of more than 600 mm and/or
equipment causing a forced movement on the body of the user (e.g. swings, slides, rocking
equipment, cableways, carousels, etc.), there shall be impact attenuating surfacing over the
entire impact area. Protective surfacing must be maintained in an appropriate way. Every
deviation can result in considerable reduction of protective function.
There are two types of surfacing options for playgrounds: Unitary and loose-fill materials.
Unitary materials typically consist of rubber mats and tiles or poured in place.
4.1. Loose-fill surfacing materials
Loose-fill materials include wood chips, wood mulch not Copper Chrome Arsenic (CCA -
treated), sand, pea gravel, and shredded rubber mulch. Surfacing materials should be tested
and complying with the standard for impact attenuation of playground surfacing materials
Concrete, grass, and dirt are not considered appropriate playground surfacing. Sand and
pea gravel are poor choices due to the limited fall height protection. Pea gravel is a choking
hazard and should not be installed on playgrounds intended for children under three years of
age. The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires appropriate accommodations for
disabled children which includes a pathway that is firm, stable, and slip resistant [3, 12].
4.2. Unitary surfacing materials
Unitary materials are generally rubber mats and tiles or a combination of energy-absorbing
materials held in place by a binder that may be poured in place at the playground site and then
cured to form a unitary shock absorbing surface. Unitary materials are available from a
numbers of different manufacturers, many of whom have a range of materials with differing
shock absorbing properties. New surfacing materials, such as bonded wood fiber and
combinations of loose-fill and unitary, are being developed [10,11].
The city of Niš has a large number of park spaces in its territory.. The largest are Čair park,
the Fortress complex which, even though occupies a large surface has a relatively small
number of amenities for children, and Sveti Sava park in the Nemanjic Boulevard. In
addition, almost every building block has an inner yard with a minimum of furniture intended
for children play – seesaws, swings, slides and jungle-gym.
5.1. Čair park
Čair park is positioned in the central part of Niša. It occupies an area of 16,4 hectares [13].
The complex itself is made of two entities, one large green area with various amenities
intended mostly for children, and a sport and recreational complex composed of outdoor and
indoor pools, football pitches, fitness center, skate rink. The complex is intended for a wide
variety of users, containing indoor and outoor areas where various health, recreation,
education, culture, art, entertainment, trading activities are taking place. (Mišić-Pejović). As
early as in the period of Ottoman domination it was named - Čair a garden for the lush
greenery in it. Next to the complex, there is a large number of cafés and sweet shops.
The section intended for children playground changed in time. Individual parts of the park
are being added playground equipment, which changed their purpose. Therefore, there is a
number of subareas in Čair, earmarked for these activities. The older children playgrounds, i.e.
furniture installed before a number of years is in a rather poor condition, figure 1. Mostly, the
surfacing under the swings and slides are damaged, so the children jump or fall on asphalt or
concrete instead of on rubber when they play. The foundation zones of equipment in time
became visible, regarding that topsoil is removed due to swinging, so these concrete pieces
represent an additional hazard for children safety.
Figure 1. Equipment in Čair park – inadequate surface, photo A. M. Petronijević
A part of the park which is equipped with the furniture relatively recently, by the donation
of the Forum shopping center, was designed in, 2011 so that it largely meets the mentioned
standards, figure 2 and figure 3. An enclosed area which was built in this campaign has
climbing equipment, seesaws, swings, huts, artificial rock for climbing. Very commendable is
usage of rubber tiles as surfacing, which minimizes the injuries of children on jumping, falling
etc. The downside is that the individual parts of the equipment are mutually very narrowly
There is a problem because of the lack of maintenance. After years of usage, the rubber
tiles are missing, so now, instead of rubber surface, the topsoil prevails.
Figure 2. Newer part of the park renewed with the Forum donation. Current condition. Čair, photo A. M.
Also problematic is the narrow spacing between individual pieces of equipment.
Figure 3. Newer part of the park renewed with the Forum donation. Current condition. Čair, photo A. M.
In 2015, City Municipality of Mediana installed a playground item in a form of a pirate
ship, so called „The Nis Galley “, figure 4. The supporting structure is made of steel sections,
and floor of the ship and outer skin of wooden planks. One can also observe the absence of
adequate surfacing between the slides and swings, and of protective sheathing of the steering
wheel, which makes it a potentially dangerous place for children.
Figure 4. Galley in Čair. Čair, photo A. M. Petronijević
5.2. Sveti Sava Park
Sveti Sava park is one of the largest and most visited parks in the city. In the park, with
finely organized green park areas, the central position is occupied by the Church of Holy
Emperor Constantine and Empress Helena. There is different children furniture, a fountain
with a bridge, small theater for the smallest children, a building of the City Municipality of
Mediana, elementary school Sveti Sava and multitude of cafes, shops and sports facilities on
the park periphery.
Both here and in the Cair park, there is a problem of inadequate furniture maintenance.
The City Municipality of Mediana, arranged a plateau north of the church in 2009, by building
a fountain and a bridge and an entire complex for children play.
The steel structure of the central composition intended for playing is clad in chipboards
painted in light colors, with Cyrillic letter motifs, figure 5. The platform floor, and the
staircase is made of wooden planks. Here also, the surfacing the children land on after coming
down the slide is worn out. The wooden steps are decrepit. Also, the rubber surface under the
swings around the ring is dilapidated and worn out in places, figure 6.
Figure 5. Furniture in Sveti Sava Park, installed in 2009., photo A. M. Petronijević
Figure 6. Furniture in Sveti Sava Park, installed in 2009., photo A. M. Petronijević
The situation in the newer area, equipped in 2016 is better.. The first playground built as a
result of Imlek company campaign "Moja Kravica - Rasti srećno", was built exactly in this
park, figure 7. The entire furniture is placed on the rubber surfacing, and the used materials are
adequate for the stated purpose.
Figure 6. Furniture in Sveti Sava Park, installed in 2016. photo A.M.Petronijević
5.3. The Fortress
The Fortress of Niš is certainly the most attractive area in the city. It is a city hallmark.
There are numerous amenities in the Fortress, from cultural, tourist, educational to the
entertaining. The relatively small ara inside the walls is intended for child play.. The
individual cafés east of the Fortress gate install such furniture in the summer season. A
permanently constructed furniture exists at only few places in the fort. It is installed directly
on dirt, without any layers of sand or rubber, figure 8.
Figure 7. Furniture in the Fort, installed directly on the dirt, photo A. M. Petronijević
5.4. Building block inner yards
The quality of the playground equipment installed in the building block inner yards is
varied, depending on the age of equipment. In most cases, it is old furniture, broken slides, and
seesaws missing seats. Their surfacing is almost always dirt.
5.5. Stop shop retail park
It becomes increasingly common to install the playgrounds in the shopping malls either
indoor or outdoor. The concept is that one of the parents would spend time with the children,
while the other would go shopping. So, in Nis, in the Roda center, there is a children
playground inside the building, and in the Stop-Shop retail park, there is an outdoor area. The
Stop-Shop retail park can boast of safe equipment, proper spacing and complete rubber
surface, figure 9. Time will tell whether this will disappear in time, like that in other
playgrounds in the city, or it will be better maintained.. The area is completely enclosed,
which facilitates the parent supervision of the children movements and activities.
Figure 8. Good practice example, Retail park in Niš, photo A. M. Petronijević
There is a number of examples of children playgrounds in Niš which do not satisfy the
safety standards and regulations. The reason for such condition is the fact that the playgrounds
were designed and constructed a long time prior to enactment of these regulations. Then, some
of the playgrounds, even though properly designed, due to lack of maintenance and
renovation, both of furniture and of surfacing, became insafe in time.. An additional problem
occurs when the equipment is used by the persons for which it was not designed. Young
people, adolescents, often meet in the evening hours on the playground, and use the equipment
which is designed to cope with a much lower weight.. This damages the equipment. Also, the
equipment is often painted over with spray cans, which, in addition to the detrimental effect on
the appearance, can also be toxic.
The playgrounds that have been constructed in the recent years are good, regarding the
compliance with the standards, but they too, unless they are maintained, will have the same
destiny the rubber tiles will fall out, after the topsoil is removed, the concrete blocks will
start to protrude from the soil… In general, in addition to the need of implementing the safety
standard when designing new playgrounds, it is necessary to adapt the existing playgrounds to
the standard, and make them a safer place for play. Enclosing such complexes, and control
over the equipment would be a good way to prevent equipment damage at night by the adults.
Continuous maintenance is, among others, one of the important factors, which, with all the
rest would contribute to a safe and care-free growing up of children.
The decree on the safety of children playground was published in the Official Gazette of
RS no 63/18 of August 17th 2018. This decree comes into effect on August 25th 2018, and it
will be implemented since November 23rd 2018.
The new Decree on the safety of children playgrounds prescribes basic health and safety
requirements which refer to necessary areas and equipment for public playgrounds, as well as
other requirements and conditions to be met when using outdoor playgrounds. The decree
prescribes regular and special playground inspections [14].
This research is supported by the Ministry of education, science and technological
development of the Republic of Serbia for project cycle 2011-2017, within the framework of
the project TR36042 and project TR36045. The authors wish to thank Mr Zoranu Bakić from
the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Serbia on the necessary and important assistance.
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[10] Huber R. Playground surfacing Canadian Stanndards & Practtice. January, 2001,
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[11] Design Standards for Urban Infrastructure – 15 Playground and Playground Equipment,
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Burn Analysis, An Interactive Qualifying Project Report Submitted to the United States
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In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Science,
December 15th, 2011
[13] Code on safety of children playgrounds, Official Gazette RS no 63/18 of August 17th
[14] Tourist organization of Niš, 10,10,2018)
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