Back to the May-Jun 2019 issue

How Deep Should Our Playground Surface Material Be?

Safety

Q: Our playgrounds are getting a lot of use, and the wood chips under the equipment are getting thin. How deep should the wood chips be?

LMC: According to the National Safety Council, nearly 80% of playground injuries are caused by falls. A good rule of thumb is that fall surfaces should be at least 12 inches deep. However, taller play equipment may need a deeper fall surface. The required depth of loose-fill surfacing depends on both the surface material used and the potential fall height of installed equipment. The Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Handbook for Public Playground Safety offers several guidelines based on material and fall height. (See page 11 of the handbook for more details.) “Fall height” is defined as the vertical distance between the highest designated play surface on a piece of equipment and the protective surfacing beneath it. The CPSC handbook is available at www.cpsc.gov/s3fs-public/325.pdf.

Answered by Loss Control Manager Rachel Carlson: rcarlson@lmc.org

Hiring

Q: Our city is in the process of interviewing people for an open position. What do we need to consider when we eliminate a job applicant because of a criminal history?

LMC: There are several state and federal laws that your city should consider if you eliminate a job applicant due to a criminal history. In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its enforcement guidance on the consideration of arrest and conviction records in employment decisions. The guidance states that the EEOC expects employers to first apply the “Green Factors” from a 1975 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Green vs. Missouri Pacific Railroad before basing a decision on the criminal history of a job applicant. These factors include:

  • The nature and seriousness of the offense.
  • The time that has passed since the offense and/or completion of the sentence.
  • The nature of the job sought.

In addition, Minnesota has a criminal offenders rehabilitation law that requires the city to consider whether the crime is related to the job for which the applicant is applying (for example, embezzlement is related to finance positions). It also requires the city to give the applicant an opportunity to show that he or she has been rehabilitated. For more complete information on these requirements, consult Chapter 2 of the League’s HR Reference Manual.

Answered by Human Resources Director Laura Kushner: lkushner@lmc.org

Data Practices

Q: Our city is working on updating our data policies. Do we need a written policy documenting the procedures for requesting data?

LMC: Under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (MGDPA), a city must establish a public data access policy and a public data subject rights and access policy. These policies are needed to ensure that requests for government data are received and responded to promptly and appropriately, as well as to explain the rights of data subjects. Both policies need to be updated by Aug. 1 of each year to reflect changes in personnel or other circumstances that might affect public access to government data. Failure to establish these procedures is a violation of the MGDPA. The Minnesota Department of Administration maintains sample policies and other resources to help cities adopt the required policy. Learn more and access these resources on the Department of Administration’s website at http://bit.ly/2GC8KsL. Also, learn more from the data practices LMC information memo.

Answered by by Research Attorney Kyle Hartnett: khartnett@lmc.org