After 20-plus years of playground guidelines and regulation development, many states have recognized the need to develop their own state regulations for playground equipment. Most states have had childcare playground regulations and a few have adopted Consumer Product Safety Guidelines as mandatory for all public playgrounds, i.e. California. Along with these regulations many states require contractor licenses in order to construct and install playgrounds.
About half of the states currently require those who build playgrounds to either be registered or licensed according to state standards. The states that have created regulations have done so for several reasons. Perhaps at the top of the list is consumer protection. Requiring a set of standards or regulations helps a state to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its populace.
All states have such requirements for certain trades known to impact public safety, such as electricians and plumbers. The advent of increased regulations for other trades follows the increase in safety awareness and prevention. As playground injury statistics have become available, many organizations (CPSC, ASTM, IPEMA etc.) have developed information designed to improve accountability for playground safety. Holding individual builders responsible as a state requirement is another step in the direction of increased safety.
State contracting laws are also designed to prevent unqualified people from building.
“Unqualified” may mean not treating employees fairly, not knowing ADA or generally accepted safety requirements, not being financially stable and so on.
Oftentimes the state requirements for playground contractors are very similar to the requirements for any business to prove its legitimacy and intent to conduct business in a professional manner. In such states, a contractor must follow a formal and legal process that may screen the applicant’s experience, finances, and criminal record.
Applicants are generally accountable to follow exemplary business practices, and evidence of such is determined by the state’s examination of references, and one’s proof of liability and workers’ compensation insurance, and tax identification information.
A written examination of technical and/or business management knowledge may also be required.
Licensing is a way to confirm the expertise of contractors and to provide consumers with verification of qualifications. Consumers are able to access listings of qualified contractors that meet state standards. In most cases, consumers are also provided a formal avenue for filing a grievance with a state licensed contractor, through the state.
As of fall 2004, 28 states require some type of construction licensing and/or registration. These states have a wide range of requirements and an installer is wise to know and abide by state requirements before beginning a playground project. Failure to do so can result in penalties and in some cases committing a criminal offense.
The 28 states that require some type of licensing and/or registration to build playgrounds are:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
The remaining 23 states do not require licensing or registration. They do require contractors to contact the county and/or city where the work will be performed.
Playground contractors will be held to local ordinances and regulations.
This information was gathered from the individual state websites and in some cases from calls made to contacts in the business/construction state departments. Rules and regulations are constantly changing, and it is the responsibility of individual contractors to know the requirements in all areas where they work. Contact information is included to assist contractors in keeping current with regulations.