ASTM and Surfacing Standards – back again, so organise

As you will see from Tim Gill’s blog – Playground Safety: Troubling New Move From ASTM – and the quote below, there appears to be a renewed attempt to amend ASTM surfacing standards, albeit in what looks like a surreptitious way.

‘Overall, the proposal appears to focus on how surfacing is safety-tested once it has been installed (so-called ‘field testing’). Members of the relevant ASTM committee tell me that a change to the head injury criterion or HIC (the key feature in the ASTM proposal rejected earlier this year) is discussed in the proposal. Even though I gather a HIC change is not a substantive feature, the proposal appears to be the latest in a series of efforts to advance this controversial position.’

The arguments against a change to HIC values have been well made and need not be repeated here.

Connect, communicate, organise

There is international, widespread, authoritative opposition to changing the HIC criteria in the absence of close, public, transparent scrutiny of the evidence claimed in support of such a proposal. Thus far, there has been no attempt to respond positively to these demands.

A key problem – and major weakness – for those opposing ASTM proposals is that our opposition is fragmented, comprising of individuals and organisations that have yet to harness the potential of a combined, more systematic approach.

This is in stark contrast to ASTM. It has the organisation and financial ability to advance its interests.

Tim is right to say that he, I and others have urged the need for a wider debate.

But it is not only a question of debate.

Irrespective of the likelihood that the current proposal will actually be passed, there is a need to create some form of formal or quasi-formal grouping, particularly perhaps at this time in the USA from where the current HIC proposals emanate, to address over the long term questions about Standards and Standard making.

At present, discussions about play equipment and surfacing Standards are conducted on the terms set by Standard-making bodies, in this particular case, the ASTM. One can’t help but believe that this court is rigged in favour of sustaining its assumed exclusive right to generate stipulations that too often weigh heavily on play provision, with questionable benefit. This is not to say that Standards have no role to play – they do. But current structures and processes for formulating them are fundamentally flawed.

Given that so many jurisdictions make Standards mandatory, and others treat them as though they were, we are in fact dealing with a publicly unaccountable body that affects public policy – and public expenditure – in a profound and disturbing way. It is not a minor matter. Still less merely a technical one.

It seems to me that those of us arguing for a different approach to Standards and Standard making must, as a matter of some urgency, move from the current position of erupting into bursts of objection to this or that proposal, to creating some form of inter-connected, authoritative entity that can stimulate and sustain debate about Standards and Standard making over the long term – getting to the heart of the matter, one might say. This is particularly pertinent at this time for the USA.

It is the case that Standards are an international matter, have impact accross jurisdictions.  But there is no escaping the fact that individual jurisdictions need to organise for themselves as the first, necessary step towards creating a cross-jurisdiction network capable of making the case for a more reasoned and reasonable approach to play equipment and surfacing Standards and Standard making.

 

2 responses to “ASTM and Surfacing Standards – back again, so organise

  1. I object to any push for onsite testing given its exclusivity and therefore cost, and anxiety on the part of the users, which I believe is totally unnecessary. So few get injured, anyway, so what is it all about??? One can only assume that there is a small bunch of people somewhere who are looking to earn a living out of hounding the rest of us into doing onsite testing which is so not needed. A much greater concern is the masses of 10 year old kids today who do not have the strength to go across a monkey bar without collapsing onto the ground and sometimes causing minor injury to themselves!

    I have always thought that risk management in playgrounds should follow public health philosophy, that is, any process needs to be able to be understood by everyone, implementable by everyone, and based on common sense, and not require sophisticated equipment or detailed knowledge of measurements, etc. involve next to no cost, and follow decent risk management practice. So every time I hear of anyone wanting to introduce practices that only a few clever blokes are advocating for, then I reject it out of hand. There are so few serious injuries in playgrounds that I struggle to maintain any interest in this argument. I wish the same interest was in how to improve the health and well being of all children, especially those who before our very eyes are being excluded from enjoying a healthy and beneficial childhood.

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  2. Thanks for this Bernard. Yes, debate is only the start: what is needed is a better system. And if ‘better’ means anything it means broader, more transparent and less commercially-driven.

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