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A New Standard in NSF-50

After four years of research, testing, and careful deliberation, NSF-50 has created a new standard for splash pad surfaces, recommending that all splash pads now include a surface that is both cushioned and slip-resistant. The standard also requires all surfaces to perform in the aquatic environment, and feature impermeability, cleanability, and chemical and UV stability.

This standard was created with the knowledge that playgrounds and splash pads are used in remarkably similar ways. Children climb, run, and jump as they interact with play features. Splash pads are simply playgrounds + water. As a result, they share some similar safety concerns. Most importantly, splash pad injuries could be mitigated or prevented by using a safety surface—namely, a surface that is both cushioned and slip-resistant without being abrasive.

Life Floor is the first surface in the world to meet this new standard. After nearly a decade of designing, testing, and building aquatic surfaces, we have been proud to contribute to the process of creating these new safety requirements. As experts in aquatic surfacing, we’re here to help you navigate the new standard and understand what it means for your facility.

The safety revolution that transformed dry playgrounds is long overdue for splash pads.

Splash pads = Playgrounds + Water

History Repeating

With this new standard, NSF aims to bring to wet playgrounds the strong tradition of safety standards and performance-based testing we already apply to dry playgrounds

Today, a central feature of every playground is the safety surface. But at one time, it was common to see playgrounds built over hard materials, like asphalt or concrete.

Unsurprisingly, injuries were common. Some two-hundred thousand children visited the emergency room for playground-related injuries in the 1970s. The industry realized it could do better, and in 1981, the Consumer Product Safety Commission published the Handbook for Public Playground Safety. The ASTM published its own guidelines soon after.

Since then, playgrounds have thrived. Often, they’re the centerpiece of a local park. Children love them and parents trust them, because they know modern playground equipment has been designed to meet rigorous safety standards.

Why was this standard needed?

Over the last 25 years, splash pads have appeared everywhere.

Unfortunately, in the rush to meet the growing demand, and without a surfacing product engineered for aquatics, key safety regulations were not immediately created for splash pads. And people have been injured. According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System database, in 2014 alone, there were an estimated 20,000 injuries on pool decks, splash pads, or water parks resulting in an emergency room visit. All over North America, splash pads have been closed due to safety concerns.

For years, operators have known that playground surfacing was not an option. It simply is not durable enough, resulting in crumbling particles in filtration systems, tripping hazards, and the growth of microbes in trapped water.

With this new standard in place, and with a durable, performance-tested surface they can trust, splash pads operators will be able to reduce injuries and keep splash pads open and providing fun for their communities all summer long.

At Life Floor, we’re committed to working with you. Together, we’re creating a safer future for aquatic recreation, for our families, and for our communities.

Resources

Our White Paper

Customer’s guide to the new surfacing standard

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FAQ

What is NSF 50?

NSF International is an objective third-party certification group that works with industry professionals and stakeholders to provide public health and safety-based risk management solutions. NSF 50/ANSI are a set of standards that establish minimum performance requirements for equipment, products, and systems related to recreational water facility operation.  The NSF 50/ANSI standards cover much of the equipment that goes in and around recreational water areas (i.e. splash pads, pool decks) including water sanitation, filtering, pumps, and surfacing.

What are the new standards around safety surfacing within NSF50?

The new standard within NSF50 outlines the performance testing characteristics of a safety surface around “interactive water venues” (which is a term that includes splash pads and areas like splash pads). Specifically, the amount of slip resistance, chemical resistance, impact cushioning, UV resistance, cleanability, and impermeability a surface needs in order to be certified to the standard.

How will products be certified?

After meeting the following requirements, Life Floor became the first product to be awarded the certification standard. Any other product that meets these standards may also be granted certification.

Slip Resistance: A certified surface needs to be independently tested via the British Pendulum Method, which is identified as a test most accurate to real-world conditions. The Safety Surfacing standard also referenced the Australian Standard in developing the slip-resistance standards. The comprehensive Australian Standard uses the British Pendulum test and additionally categorizes the applications requiring dynamic slip-resistance testing (i.e pool decks, zero depth entries, locker rooms) as these are all areas where kids play dynamically.

Testing is conducted with three sets of materials: a control sample, samples with UV testing, and samples with pool chemical resistance testing. Life Floor is certified with at least a P4 rating a rating from the Australian Standard based on achieving at least a 40 British Pendulum Number (BPN) on the British Pendulum Test on all of the above* (pending). Most of the developed world already uses the British Pendulum Test.

Chemical Resistance: A certified surface is independently tested by exposing samples to specifically treated water for 100 days, including three elevated chlorine “shock” periods lasting at least 24 hours each. While samples are allowed to show wear and tear, any erosion of the sample material is not acceptable. Life Floor is certified to this chemical resistance standard in that the tile material retains its slip resistant and impact attenuating qualities after undergoing this process. Life Floor is also certified in that any safety messaging (i.e. depth markers) retains color contrast with visual clarity.

UV Resistance: A certified surface is independently tested for 750 hours under a fluorescent UV light in accordance with ASTM G154. This testing also includes condensation testing and much like the chemical resistance testing, wear and tear are acceptable, however, samples should still have visual contrast in any safety messaging. Any erosion is not acceptable if it compromises the sample’s slip-resistance and impact attenuation qualities. Life Floor is certified to this standard.

Cleanability: A certified surface is independently tested to reveal how well material can be cleaned and sanitized. Any surface which has seams is required to provide samples with seams in the testing stage. In the testing, a dirty slurry with two major bacterial groups found in aquatic environments is applied to the surface and surface seams. These colonies are then allowed to incubate, with one set of samples kept as a control. The bacteria colonies are first counted before placing the samples in a bleach solution. The bacteria colonies are then counted again after removal from the solution. Life Floor is certified to this standard as it experienced a log 3 (99.9%) reduction of bacteria after being sanitized. This also includes the seam area.

Impermeability: A certified surface will not absorb water. Following the process, as outlined in the standard, a submerged sample will not absorb water after 24 hours. Life Floor is certified to this standard in that tested samples did not significantly change after being submerged.

Who is affected by this new standard?

Currently, 37 US states reference NSF 50. An additional 4 states have counties that reference NSF 50. Different state pool codes reference the NFS50/ANSI standards, which can be found on this interactive map: http://www.nsf.org/images/nsf/pools_nsf-50_map_us.jpg

A list of Canadian providences can be found here: http://www.nsf.org/images/nsf/pools_nsf-50_map_canada.jpg

Additionally, the Model Aquatic Health Code as set out by the CDC has adopted NSF 50/ANSI standards. In this case, the Model Aquatic Health Code outlines what specifically is mandatory for facilities to adhere to (the code) and the NSF 50 standard provides guidelines on how to comply with the code.

If it’s not mandatory, why is this important?

It is always in a facility’s best interest to adhere to NSF standards, in terms of both operational excellence and risk mitigation. Especially relevant to operators, meeting NSF standards for sanitation, health, and safety provide facilities additional protection from potential lawsuits. The NSF 50 standard reduces the chance of injuries; however, should an injury occur, operators can point to the fact that they were operating under the best and safest practices in the industry. It may be problematic to the operator legally should an injury occur in their facility that could have been avoided had the standard been followed. This is especially true if NSF standards are followed in other areas of the facility.

On a product level, using NSF 50 certified products takes the guesswork out of finding safe, high-performing products and services for aquatic operators. Independent testing ensures that a product with NSF certification can be trusted to serve public health.