– By James R. McCormick, Jr., Esq. (originally published in Spring 2000)

Do you have a swing, slide or other playground equipment in your common area? If so, then recent changes to California laws governing playground safety will most likely effect your association. Recently, the legislature amended Health & Safety Code 115730 to create new standards for public playground improvements. Section 115730 applies to all public playgrounds, including those in common interest developments, and requires that the operator of the playground equipment have a certified playground safety inspector inspect the playground for compliance with the new standards by October 1st of this year. The playground inspector used by an association must be certified by the National Playground Safety Institute (to locate an inspector in your area contact the California Park and Recreation Society at (916) 665-2777 or www.cprs.org). Any report issued by the inspector may only be used as a reference for the necessary upgrades, and does not necessarily alter the association’s potential liability.

Section 115730 also creates new standards forplayground equipment based on when the playground was installed. If your playground was installed between January 1, 1994 and December 31, 1999, then the playground must meet the minimum protective requirements set forth in both the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Handbook for Public Playground Safety (a copy of the handbook may be obtained from our office or from the Internet at www.dhs.ca.gov/epic/). Under Section 115730’s regulations, the standards in these documents cover everything from the height and spacing of playground equipment, to the protective surfaces under the equipment, to the type of equipment used in the playground area. Section 115730 requires that all playground improvements must be modified to meet these new standards by January 1, 2003.

If your association’s playground was built prior to 1994, then the playground facilities must be modified to meet the standards set forth under Health & Safety Code 115725 by January 1, 2003. Section 115725’s regulations require that the playground area meet the requirements of both the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Handbook for Public Playground Safety and the American Society for Testing and Material’s (ASTM) “Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use, Designation : F 1487-98” (a copy of the equipment specifications may be purchased from the ASTM customer service line at (610) 832-9585). In addition to the standards imposed by the Handbook for Public Playground Safety, the ASTM guidelines set forth further restrictions including types of materials that may be used in construction of the equipment, installation standards and the overall layout of the playground.

Either way the ball bounces, if your association has a playground facility you must take steps to ensure that all playground areas are inspected before October 1, 2000 and that plans are made to make any necessary upgrades by 2003. If you need any further assistance with these playground design and safety requirements, please do not hesitate to contact our office for assistance. Further information on this matter can be found at the

www.cpsc.gov.