Magazine article Parks & Recreation

There Is Value in Professional Certification for Playground Inspectors

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

There Is Value in Professional Certification for Playground Inspectors

Article excerpt

In the late 1990s I met a Certified Playground Safety In spector (CPSI) candidate by the name of Dwight Curtis. This young man was very interested in conducting his Ph.D. research on the "parks" side of our profession and expressed a particular desire to focus on the area of playground safety. We chatted about many things related to playground management. My suggestions focused on the new emerging playground safety standards and whether or not these standards and our CPSI training were having any measurable Impact on public playground safety and injury reduction. I believed in my gut the CPSI program and its national certification designation, while still very new at that time, was having a significant positive impact resulting in a measurable reduction in playground injuries and long-term, significant cost savings from less litigation.

These theories were nothing more than my opinions based on personal observations during the previous 10 years. I attributed these perceived improvements to the industry-wide need for CPSI training, demonstrated by the rapidly increasing number of courses and participants. I also observed a steady increase in awareness among playground managers of the most common playground hazards. This, coupled with major efforts to address common playground hazards by the playground equipment designers and manufacturers, were all positive steps in improving the basic safety of the playground environment. Unfortunately, there was no research data to prove my observations right or wrong.

I suggested Curtis consider a research project that would prove, one way or the other, that there was true, measureable value in being a CPSI. I believed all agencies that hired a trained and experienced CPSI would also benefit in other measureable ways. I was of the opinion that when research could demonstrate the positive impact of a CPSI, that NRPA would be able to convince all policy makers and agency managers of the need for, and value of, having a CPSI on staff in every park and recreation agency, school district and childcare facility in America. I also believed the benefits of having CPSIs on staff should be able to be measured within every playground equipment and surface system designer/ manufacturer, distributor, installer or private contractor involved in creating public playgrounds.

It took approximately 15 years to compile some research to support the value of a CPSI. The following information comes from Curtis's Ph.D. dissertation and outlines just a portion of the data supporting the utility of having a trained, skilled CPSI on staff.

Abstract

Despite the implementation of CPSI programs to reduce injuries, the United States still faces high injury rates on public playgrounds. The objective of Curtis' study was to examine playground certification effectiveness on reducing reported injuries on public playgrounds in California.

A correlational framework was utilized to examine relationships among playground injuries in three different-size municipalities and CPSI certification in the state of California during a 10-year period.

Additionally, the influence of playground safety inspectors' and their supervisors' beliefs and attitudes about certification status, experience level and available resources on injury outcomes was also investigated.

Survey data was collected primarily online from 247 inspectors, their supervisors and organizational risk-management specialists, with a response rate of 60.3 percent.

The number of playground safety inspectors increased 48.7 percent during the past decade. Statistical analysis of injury rates for three assessment years (2000, 2005 and 2010) in three different city sizes and for two types of certification status, resulted in significant differences in injuries over time, certification status by time, city size by time, and certification status by city size by time. These analyses found greater declining injury rates for cities with certified inspectors than those without, but only the data for 2010 was significant. …

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