Monday, April 27, 2009

Keep Your Child Safe on the Playground

Doctors treat more than 200,000 children in emergency rooms every year for accidents on the playground. Most of the children who are hurt are under age 14 and with the weather nice and warm, our little ones are going to want to be out for a swinging time.

Pediatricians want to remind us what we can expect if we take our eyes off our children and forget to keep them safe. Here's what Dr. Kimberly Giuliano, Pediatrician, says they see in emergency rooms. "Minor injuries, cuts and scrapes, those kind of things. We get things that are a little more serious, broken bones and in very, very severe circumstances, even death from what seemed to be just a routine playing activity."

Doctors say adult supervision is the easiest way to prevent an injury. Keep your child in full view in the playground, especially if the child is under five. Parents should keep an eye out for unsafe surfaces. Playground safety surfaces like wood chips, bark mulch, wood fibers, sand, pea gravel, shredded tires and rubber mats can help cushion falls. Avoid concrete, grass and dirt surfaces, they're too hard. A fall of ten inches onto concrete has the same impact as falling several feet into mulch.

Look over the playground equipment before your child climbs all over it. Make sure everything is anchored to the ground, there's nothing loose or rusting or missing.
If your child falls, don't hesitate to have a physician check out any injury. It is better to be cautious than to be sorry for letting, what seemed like a minor injury, develop into something more serious or even life-threatening.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Is it really Wood Fiber?

Is it really Wood Fiber?
Over the last 20 years, engineered wood fiber has been the most utilized surfacing in the commercial playground industry. It is very affordable, will last for years, and it meets basic ADA accessibility needs. Due to its popularity, there are numerous sources producing engineered wood fiber. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of companies producing similar wood playground surfacing that is either sub-par material, or simply wood chips or mulch. In addition, many credible companies rely on local mills to manufacture and deliver the material. How can you be sure that you are getting the real thing?
First we need to define engineered wood fiber. Thankfully, ASTM has done this for us and set a standard for the industry. According to ASTM F2075, engineered wood fiber is defined as “processed wood that is ground to a fibrous consistency, randomly sized, approximately ten times longer than wide with a maximum length of 2 in., free of hazardous substances, and meets the criteria of this specification.” [i] The standard goes on to set 3 basic requirements:
1. Size – a sieve analysis is used to determine compliance
2. Metal Particles – no metal particles in excess of ½” are allowed
3. Heavy Metal Concentrations – the standard on Toy Safety is referenced (F963) [ii]
Unless you are a testing laboratory, you probably don’t have the equipment to perform a sieve analysis or a quantity of hydrochloric acid to extract the heavy metals. So the question remains – how can you be sure you are getting the real thing? There are several steps that you can take to protect your interests.
Qualify the Source
IPEMA has set up a third party certification to test suppliers’ materials ( Not only do they verify compliance to ASTM 2075, they test for compliance to ASTM F1292[iii] to make sure that it meets fall-height standards. They also ensure that appropriate quality control standards are in place. While IPEMA certification goes a long way towards protecting the consumer, it does not guarantee that you are getting the right product delivered from a mill. In addition, just because surfacing material is not IPEMA certified, this does not mean that it is not Engineered Wood Fiber. Many local mills produce a quality product, but do not participate in the program.
Ask for documentation. All suppliers should have testing reports verifying compliance with ASTM F1292. They should also have appropriate product liability insurance covering the material being delivered for the intended use. Make sure that they have a written specification for their product and that it states compliance to ASTM F2075. Ask for a written warranty and compare it to other sources. Finally, ask for references and go look at it. A supplier will give you their best references which will give you a standard to compare it to when delivered.
Check the Load
Do not allow delivery if you are not able to be there to check it. It is a lot easier to reject a load before it is dumped on the site. Being there also allows you to dictate where it is delivered if the play area is not accessible by the carrier. Engineered Wood Fiber is generally delivered by a 55’ live bottom trailer, so site limitations can affect how near the material can be delivered. Most of the time a driver will not be willing to drive over a curb or sidewalk for fear of damaging the vehicle.
When the driver arrives, ask to inspect the load. You will notice that the trailer is not completely full. Like a box of cereal, the load will generally settle some during transit. Also the quantity is often limited by weight restrictions. If there has been a lot of rain, the engineered wood fiber will be moist, and weight limit may restrict the truckload to 75 or 80 cubic yards. The product should be almost all wood with very little bark in it. There should be very few – if any – pieces over 2” in length. Look for colors. If you see any red, blue, or other non-wood colors, you can assume you are getting non-virgin wood. Some suppliers will supplement their loads with material from pallets, countertops, and other scrap sources. Do not accept this material. You cannot presume that there are no toxic chemicals in the wood or nails from shredded pallets. It is best to stick with virgin material. The last thing you need is for a child to play on surface material consisting of shredded pallets that were used to carry a toxic chemical that leaked – not to mention the nails!
Look for large pieces. Even the best supplier will have a couple in a load as they can slip through the screens. However, an unscrupulous mill may remove the screens to speed up production. If there are a lot of large pieces – reject it. An eight year old child can find a lot of creative uses for a spear or sword- sized piece of wood, but you probably don’t need the liability exposure.
If a load is already dumped or installed and you find that it is not up to standards – demand that it is removed immediately. Do not accept a discounted price or favors. If you specify and order engineered wood fiber, the supplier has a responsibility – not just to the buyer, but the children using it – to deliver engineered wood fiber. Anything else will be a liability hazard. You do not know if it meets fall heights, it may not be accessible, and it may have toxic materials. Many municipalities will supply mulch from yard waste for free. This is not an appropriate material for a public playground. Not only is it usually chipped rather than ground, it can have a lot of dangerous materials in it. Free mulch can turn into a school wide poison ivy epidemic or worse - an expensive legal problem. A properly qualified source will protect you from legal issues and remove the question of negligence – which is the key factor in the difference between a suit that is thrown out and a large verdict or settlement.
Get a third party involved
Have a qualified auditor inspect and audit the play area when complete. This ensures that an unbiased professional is certifying that what you have contracted to be done was done within the parameters of the ASTM guidelines. It is another layer of protection for you and also responsible risk management.

[i] ATSM F2075 Standard Specification for Engineered Wood Fiber for Use as a Playground Safety Surface Under and Around Playground. For the complete document, visit the ASTM website,, or contact ASTM customer service at
[ii] ATSM F963 Consumer Safety Specification for Toy Safety. For the complete document, visit the ASTM website,, or contact ASTM customer service at
[iii] ATSM F1292 Specification for Impact Attenuation of Surface Systems Under and Around Playground Equipment. For the complete document, visit the ASTM website,, or contact ASTM customer service at

bigger playground with new sitcom

Amy Poehler gets a bigger playground with new sitcom
By Bill Keveney, USA TODAY
LOS ANGELES — Amy Poehler was Hillary Clinton. Her latest persona, Pawnee, Ind., deputy parks and recreation director Leslie Knope, would like to be.
Poehler has traded Hillary and all her other Saturday Night Live characters for just one: Leslie, the hugely ambitious but dangerously naive bureaucrat at the center of the new NBC comedy Parks and Recreation (Thursday, 8:30 ET/PT).
"Her office is filled with everyone from Bella Abzug to Hillary Clinton to a picture of a suffragette whose name she doesn't know," says Poehler, 37, who says she has no plans to reprise her popular Hillary impersonation. "Leslie likes to put herself among very important female political figures. She has no idea of her status and where she fits in."
Focusing on just one character, Poehler has the time to find a depth that wasn't available at SNL, where the helter-skelter, do-or-die pace of live, short sketches calls for one broad take and goodbye. Leslie is far more nuanced than hyperactive niece Caitlin or one-legged reality show contestant Amber, both pieces of Poehler's repertoire during seven seasons at the late-night comedy show.
"It's been really fun to do much more subtle work, and a real character that has an arc and that you're starting to get to know," Poehler says during a break on the Parks set. "Leslie has big dreams and little skill. She gets to watch how frustrating it is to get things done."
The actress, who recently became a mother, wears a conservative gray pantsuit adorned with the kind of huge white bow that you won't see in fashion magazines. She shows an inspirational pin that says Above and Beyond, "which is one of Leslie's many mottos."
"There's nothing cool about her," Poehler says, breaking into a hearty laugh. "Every time I put something on and think it's cute, I have to take it off."
Parks follows Leslie as she navigates the parks department, her hopes for building a community park raised and dashed with each turn. It's the kind of high-drama, low-stakes comedy played expertly on The Office, which serves as the lead-in for Parks' premiere.
That isn't the only connection between the shows. Parks shares The Office's mockumentary style and two of its executive producers, Greg Daniels and Michael Schur. It also shares The Office's penchant for finding humor in the ordinariness of people's lives.
"The most important connection to The Office is borrowing its audience — and hoping those who are loyal to the hit sitcom will, at minimum, sample and, at maximum, stay for Parks and Recreation," says John Rash, media analyst at the Campbell Mithun ad agency.
Despite the similarities, Parks is not a spinoff, which was how NBC announced the new series last spring. Daniels says the deal was for a new program, not specifically a spinoff, which takes characters from an established series and transplants them to a new show. (It also requires the payment of rights fees to the original show's creators.) No Office characters appear in Parks.
NBC is still interested in making an Office spinoff, although there is no timetable, the network's entertainment co-chairman Ben Silverman says.
Parks is designed to fit the younger-skewing sensibilities of NBC's Thursday comedies, he says. Besides The Office, the block includes two other comedies that also stray from the traditional, studio-audience form: My Name Is Earl and 30 Rock, the latter starring Poehler friend and SNL vet Tina Fey. (Poehler says of SNL and Rock executive producer Lorne Michaels: "I think Lorne has done more for women in comedy than anyone I know.")
Daniels thinks the focus — the wide world of government vs. the interior nature of an office — and Poehler's personality and skill will help Parks stand out from its mockumentary cousin.
"Amy has a distinct sensibility and sense of humor. She can be kind of small, and she can also be very loud and funny and brassy," he says. "The challenge for Mike and me is to capture that."
Silverman sees another trait that can go a long way in TV: "Amy is so genuinely likable … which really comforts you in the living room."
More camcorder, less theater
Poehler was initially unavailable because her due date conflicted with the shooting schedule needed to launch the new show after February's Super Bowl, as initially planned. She and her actor-husband, Will Arnett, are now the parents of Archie, 5 months, who was born near the end of her SNL run.
"Archie is doing great," Poehler says. "Just like every working mom, I'm trying to balance everything, but it's been awesome."
Eventually, Daniels and Schur, who had worked with her at SNL, gave up the prized post-Super Bowl slot for the opportunity to hold on to Poehler, who "might be the funniest human being I've ever met," Schur says.
"I felt that at SNL she was using only one-third of her arsenal," he says. "I hope when people see this show, they think, 'Wow! I'm getting all of what I like about the SNL Amy Poehler but also getting this other version of Amy Poehler that I haven't seen before.' "
As with The Office, Daniels chose the pseudo-documentary style, which goes back at least to Spinal Tap, because it allows the camera to observe the characters from a distance but also to interact with them. Viewers have long been familiar with the traditional multi-camera sitcom style, filmed before a studio audience as if it were a play, but their own experiences have made them more comfortable with the roving single camera, he says.
"I feel like the multi-camera sitcom is based on the theatergoing experience, seeing a very presentational, on-stage kind of thing," he says. "I think the mockumentary is more similar to how you videotape your own life. … I have more experience taping my friends and family with a camcorder than I do going to live theater."
On a production level, the more natural form requires less time for lighting and preparing the set. That leaves more time "to chase the comedy" through extra takes, taking advantage of the improvisational skills of Poehler and other cast members.
In one scene, that process allows Poehler to fine-tune the anxiety Leslie is feeling about a newspaper interview that was meant to promote the park's chances but now looks like it is about to go bad.
She plays Leslie's nervousness and subsequent relief as if they are comedy's version of the musical scales. With each take, the pitch of her voice rises a notch and the fear in her face intensifies by degree. And each escape from that calamity — "Disaster averted" — comes with a slightly deeper sigh.
Deluded but ambitious
At the parks department, Leslie is surrounded by boss Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman), who is hostile to the idea of serving the public; colleague Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), a self-serving fast talker who fashions himself a player; and an uninterested college intern, April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza).
Philosophically, Ron ought to squelch Leslie's activism, but it serves his purposes, Offerman says. "She wants to do everything so he puts her in charge of everything and sits in his office doing crossword puzzles."
Her man problems also include the crush she has on once-idealistic city planner Mark Brendanawicz (Paul Schneider). He has forgotten that they once slept together.
After nurse Ann Perkins (The Office's Rashida Jones) complains about an abandoned construction pit, the gung-ho Leslie vows to build a park on the site, even though she has no idea of all the hurdles in the way. "She overpromises in the first five minutes," Poehler says.
The upbeat bureaucrat hopes that her can-do style will lead to the corridors of power in Washington, although she's planning a rather tortuous route: a step up to parks director, a jump to city council a few years later, then to governor and beyond. "She's got a 40-year plan," Poehler says.
While dealing with Tom's ridicule and Ron's negative attitude toward government, Leslie forms a friendship with Ann, Parks' most balanced character.
"It's the coming together of two people who are incredibly different," says Jones. "I like (Leslie's) enthusiasm. I'm so impressed because I haven't had any response from anybody in government until now. She genuinely likes me and seems to care about (the project)."
The common-sensical Ann is willing to put up with Leslie's gaffes and delusions because she represents a break from the frustrating, all-too-familiar bureaucracy. Those miscalculations include an effort to attract support for the park that backfires into public opposition, and a small ethics violation that "convinces her she needs to do a Checkers-like speech," Daniels says.
Leslie "does a lot of studying of the greats of politics: What would Karl Rove do? What would Margaret Thatcher do?" he says. "She's trying to learn from them, but is often misapplying it."

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

White House: Playground issue is mulch ado about nothing

White House: Playground issue is mulch ado about nothing
By McClatchy-Tribune Tuesday, April 7, 2009 U.S. Politics

CHICAGO - President Obama has been dealt a setback in his bid for traction with the green community and it amounts to a pile of ground-up tire mulch.

The mulch, used on a playground for first daughters Sasha and Malia, has raised eyebrows at an environmental health group, which contends it is a health hazard.

“This is not a material that children should be playing on,” wrote Nancy Alderman, president of Environment and Human Health, Inc.

The group said an analysis of ground-up tires done by the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station found a carcinogen, butylated hydroxyanisole; skin and eye irritants; material that destroys mucous membranes; and zinc.

Sinai Hospital in New York City concluded in March that "we are suddenly, and belatedly, beginning to realize that synthetic turf fields may, in fact, be associated with health problems in children."

First lady Michelle Obama’s communications director, Camille Johnston, said in an e-mail that the White House followed the recommendations of the National Recreation and Park Association "when choosing and installing the safety surface under the swing set."

Other experts said the use of recycled rubber tire material for such purposes has been shown to be safe over many years.

Johnston has ended the debate for now. The mulch is going to stay, she said. Article URL: