How do landscape materials impact user safety?

Ithara Group’s technical director, Jens Dietrich Rethorn, explains how rope used in playgrounds impacts user security and landscape management

Ithara Group’s technical director, Jens Dietrich Rethorn.
Ithara Group’s technical director, Jens Dietrich Rethorn.

Rope equipment has been around for more than 20 years; however, to date, it is yet to be completely accepted by some parents and municipal decision-makers. This hesitation is due to a number of reasons. On the other hand, educators are convinced of the high educational and play value of pyramids, netscapes, and climbers.

Among the main reasons municipal decision-makers do not prefer rope include the suspected ease of vandalism. A major argument often offered is that ropes are easily cut with a knife. This argument overlooks the fact that typical playground rope is not solely made of hemp, polyester or other yarns, but of a multi-stranded steel core with a mantle of polyamide or polyester. Structural ropes for larger net structures are 20mm to 22mm thick cables of interwoven metal and yarn.

Suspected danger of falling off is another reason often stated against rope, especially for pyramids. However, space-climbers are generally up to 11m high. Is it dangerous? Accident statistics in Europe show that rope equipment is among the safest equipment in the field. So the real answer to that question lies in the design of the equipment.

Professionally designed space-nets place the openings between the rope’s offset, so that at no point is there a chance for a child to fall all the way through. A good space-net will also have plenty of handholds on the way down. As such, a pyramid of 6m height might have a free fall height of 1m or less.

Difficulty of maintenance due to the complexity of the structure is an argument against rope which, to an extent, is true. Space-nets are complex structures that – should they ever be vandalised – require professional care. On the other hand, a good service provider or playground installer will provide professional guidance or undertake such work as part of their maintenance contract.

On the upside, rope equipment offers some advantages that are unparalleled. The high volume of the equipment allows for a large number of kids to play on very little material – there are no big panels, roofs, platforms or similar components to consider. This also means that the cost per child using the area and equipment is lower than in comparable equipment.

Space-nets allow for dynamic climbing, as the ropes are strong but flexible and not static like a climbing wall or any such equipment. The conic shape allows for easy risk assessment – kids very easily understand the concept of height and can climb to the next level at their own time. Last but not least, kids can experience height in a safe environment, with plenty of handholds using rope equipment.

Ithara Group is a supplier of playground equipment and rubber flooring in the UAE.

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