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Texas adopts ASTM standards, eliminates CPSC

In an effort to make playgrounds safer for children, Deborah Muse, founder of a former Texas Landscape Structures playground consultant, teamed up with a local competitor, Ken Hurst, to help Texas become the first state in the U.S. to adopt ASTM standards as the sole playground standard. Beginning Sept. 1, 2009, playground equipment purchased with public funds must comply with the provisions of ASTM standard F1487-07ael.

Prior to the new law, the one passed in 1997 required that playgrounds purchased with public funds had to be in “substantial compliance” with the 1994 version of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) Handbook for Public Playground Safety, known as Publication 325 in the industry. Since this law was first put on the books, the playground equipment industry (the manufacturers and other industry experts) had moved farther and farther away from the CPSC, and today manufacture and install in accordance with the ASTM. The ASTM specifications are much more detailed and technical, and they require a company to perform tests on its products to ensure that they are in compliance with the standards. They are less subject to interpretation than the CPSC publication, which was really intended for use by parents, teachers, and officials to evaluate and maintain their playgrounds. Confusion in how to comply with both, when there were conflicts in the two guidelines, was a challenge. The CPSC publication was never intended to be used as a law; it was a “voluntary guideline” which is rarely updated to reflect changes in materials, innovation and technology. The committee that oversees the ASTM standards meets several times a year, and revisions are published whenever the need arises.

Hurst and Muse determined that industry experts were supportive of their idea. Muse contacted State Senator John Carona and Representative Will Hartnett, who both agreed to sponsor the bill. The initial draft of the bill was filed by Hartnett on the very last day that the Legislature would take new bills. The bill also received support from the Texas Recreation and Park Society (TRAPS – Michal Anne Lord and Brad Griggs), University of Texas Professor Joe Frost, Ph.D. (a leader in the playground industry), and the TAEYC (the Texas arm of the NAEYC National Association for the Education of Young Children). Representative Hartnett and his staff kept the bill moving through the House and it was passed unanimously.

Senator John Carona carried the bill masterfully in the Senate. During the Senate process, there was a request to add a requirement for covering over bare metal decks, steps and slides to protect from the sun’s heat. The new bill was substituted and passed out of Senator Jane Nelson’s Health and Human Services Committee with a unanimous vote. After all was said and done, the bill made it through the Senate, and was approved unanimously. Then, it was back to the House again for another unanimous approval of the substituted bill.  Finally, the bill, now known as HB4127, was sent to the Governor’s desk to sign on May 27 and became law June 21.