Category Archives: Outdoor Safety Tips

ACQ Preserve Pressure Treated Wood For Swing Sets & Playsets

Today's ACQ Pressure Treated wood is Safe

Today’s Pressure Treated wood is Safe

For more than a decade, arsenic and chromium-free ACQ Preserve pressure treated wood has been used in some of the world’s most environmentally sensitive locations. From the pristine environments of national parks in Australia, North America, Europe and Japan, to neighborhood playgrounds and backyards like yours, Preserve treated wood has been used around the globe to provide a durable building product for outdoor projects where environmental values and product safety are priorities.

Environmentally Advanced

Preserve® treated wood products are available in response to concerns raised by public and government sectors of the treated wood market regarding the use of arsenic and chromium in pressure-treated wood. Preserve is treated with ACQ®, an environmentally advanced formulation that is arsenic and chromium free. The ACQ preservative system provides long-term protection from rot, decay and termites without the use of any EPA listed hazardous chemicals.

ACQ Preservative Protection

The ACQ preservative in Preserve treated wood is a copper plus quat system that provides the same level of protection to wood as CCA preservatives against decay, rot and termite attack (without the use of arsenic and chromium).

The main active ingredient in ACQ is Copper, which has long been established as the most cost-effective preservative component used in timber preservation. Quat acts as the co-biocide in the ACQ preservative, providing additional protection from fungi and insect attack that copper alone would not control. Quats are commonly used in household and industrial disinfectants and cleaners and are biodegradable in soil. Copper and quat solutions similar to ACQ are used for the control of fungi and bacteria in swimming pools and spas.

ACQ Preserve Plus Offers Improved Weathering Performance

Wood which is exposed outside to the weather is subject to repeated wetting and drying cycles that cause wood to swell and shrink, resulting in splitting, cracking and warping. Preserve Plus is protected with the combination of ACQ preservative treatment and a built-in water-repellent, to provide long-term protection against decay, rot, termite attack and the effects of weathering.

ACQ Preserve Plus should be specified for outdoor building projects where appearance is important and protection from the effects of weathering is a priority.

Painting and Staining or Natural Weathering

ACQ Preserve and Preserve Plus can be painted or stained to match any outdoor color scheme. High quality oil and latex based paints and stains are recommended. Water repellent coatings can be applied to enhance the long-term weathering performance. It is important that the wood is dry and free from surface deposits prior to applying any coating. Left uncoated ,or with clear water-repellent coatings, Preserve and Preserve Plus will initially weather to a natural brown color, eventually turning gray following long-term exposure to the sun.

Nails, Fasteners and Fittings

For the best results, stainless steel or hot dipped galvanized fasteners and fittings are recommended. A list of acceptable fastener systems is available from your Preserve supplier. Anti-corrosion coatings applied to fasteners and fittings in contact with treated wood will enhance long-term performance. Direct contact of Preserve treated wood with aluminum fasteners and fittings is not recommended.

ACQ Preserve’s Performance Guaranteed

ACQ Preserve and Preserve Plus are the only arsenic and chromium-free pressure-treated wood products backed by a Lifetime Limited Warranty! Ask your retailer for details.

Product Features

  • Does not contain arsenic, chromium or other EPA classified hazardous chemicals.
  • Provides long-term protection from rot, decay and termite attack.
  • Can be used in environmentally sensitive settings.
  • Enhances worker safety.
  • Wood scraps can be disposed of by ordinary trash collection.
  • Offers a wider selection of treatable timber species.
  • Easily painted or stained.
  • Quality control ensured by independent third-party inspection.
  • Features a Limited Lifetime Warranty.
  • Preserve Plus is available with built-in water-repellent.

Treated Lumber and Plywood Specifications, Approvals, Registrations, and Awards

  • Approved by the ICBO Evaluation Services (ER#4981) (Uniform Building Code)
  • Standardized by the American Wood Preservers’ Association (AWPA) C1, C2, C22, C4-95, C5, C9, C15, C17, P5
  • Preservative components registered with the United States Environmental Protection Agency
  • Australian Standard AS-1604 1997
  • AQIS – Australian Quarantine Service
  • JIS Japanese Standards
  • CSA Canadian Standard Association
  • NWPC – Nordic Wood Preservation Council
  • Approved in Germany, Holland, Denmark, Sweden and Spain.
  • Awarded Wisconsin Dept of Industry, Labor, and Human Relations Approval
  • Awarded Wisconsin’s Governor’s Commendation
  • Awarded Wisconsin’s Dept. of Natural Resources Commendation.


Preserve and Preserve Plus can be used for any building application where protection from decay and termite attack is required. Applications include:


  • Decking
  • Landscaping
  • Gazebos
  • Fencing
  • Steps
  • Walkways
  • Wood Siding
  • Storage Sheds
  • Outdoor furniture
  • Wooden Swing Sets
  • Piers and docks
  • Trellis and lattice
  • Permanent Wood Foundations
  • Sign and Mailbox Posts
  • Planter Boxes
  • Wood Bridges






How to Find Reputable Contractors!

Guide to help find local reputable contractors!

Working Relationships

  • During your meetings, which should be a fair exchange between the party contracting and the prospective contractor, gauge your feelings and impressions you have about the person/organization you would be dealing with.
  • Do they seem reputable and reliable?
  • Is this a representative or salesperson of the company and if so, who will be onsite handling the project?
  • Know before signing. And be wary of attempts that get you to sign right now. Higher involvement decisions by nature require more time.
  • Does the person strike you as being knowledgeable and not just versed on the subject?
  • Given the setting and your own set of circumstances/nature of the work, were appropriate product samples available or at least made reference to?

  • How many years have they been in the business? [Which also raises the question of financial stability and ability to stand behind a warranty].
  • How closely does their experience and track record related to your own project?
  • Have they been diverse in the sense that they’ll be able to cope with an hidden unforeseeable that may rear, and fairly at that?

  • Look at your initial mode of contact. If they do or don’t come by way of reference from associates, friends, or from those already in the business.
  • Still do your part. Become clear on the issues of cleanliness, professionalism and regard for the project overall from inception to beyond completion?
  • Do their projects come in on budget and on time. Or within the timetable relied on for larger scale projects?
  • Does the company utilize subcontractors versus employees. [for the project receiver, the subcontractor arrangement can have disadvantages such as delays in completion, quality of work issues, and not as much influence over the finished product while employee-roles offer greater consistency as a whole. But this is no universal rule by any wild stretch.]
  • Obtain at total of at least three references in any case.
  • Check with your local Better Business Bureau for registered complaints and current status of these, company history, and whether any outstanding issues have been resolved.

  • While the low bidder is favorable to many, and is usually most often chosen, consider what you may be paying for in trade for the lesser price; if at all. Are quality of materials possibly being sacrificed?
  • Also along with costs, you’ll want to consider the payment arrangements. Specifically the percentage of retention or holdback – the amount withheld until completion, which is factored as an allocation to finish your project in the event the chosen contractor does not complete satisfactorily.

  • Requirements vary from state to state. Check with your state department of regulation or licensing board or, county building department to get a grasp on.
  • Also don’t take on good faith that the license won’t expire during your said project so confirm expiration dates too.

  • Have specified any product/labor offered and for what duration.
  • What exactly does the guarantee cover? All labor and material ? Or will labor be separated out at that future date, only be stood behind by itself, as is so common.
  • What circumstances and exceptions might apply to the proposed guarantee and is this guarantee in writing or only by word-of-mouth? Always this is an area that deserves extra attention and clarification.
  • Lastly, make sure any applicable code requirements are adhered to and which one of you will handle the needed permits, such as filing for and later sign-off with the inspector.

Propane Tank Safety

Propane Tank Safety

Propane Tank Regulations, Safety and Cooking Times

If you have a propane tank that was made before September 30, 1998 you might be in for a bit of a surprise the next time you go to have it refilled. As of April 1st, 2002 all new cylinders must be equipped with an Overfill Prevention Device (OPD). Also you can’t get your old tank filled if it doesn’t have this new valve. Don’t worry, though, there are about 40 million obsolete cylinders out there now.

Every year it is estimated that there are 600 fires or explosions caused by overfilled propane cylinders. To eliminate this problem the National Fire Prevention Agency recommended to the Consumer Product Safety Commission that they require the OPD be installed on all propane tanks. So after years, here we are, scrambling to replace obsolete propane cylinders. This ruling applies to all propane cylinders from 4 to 40 pounds.

The OPD is a special valve that has a float inside the tank that will close the valve when the tank is 80% full. It won’t measure how much propane is in the tank, but it is supposed to keep it from being overfilled. An overfilled propane tank can explode violently because of physical damage or exposure to moderate heat. Now, while the risk is relatively low, it is real.

So, how do you know if you tank needs to be replaced? The new propane cylinders have a triangle shaped valve knob. Older models had a five-prong, circular knob. If you have the triangle knob, then you’re fine. Otherwise you need to get a new tank. Of course, you’ll ask, why can’t you just replace the valve? Any tank older then 12 years is considered too old to be used. And for those in the between years, the cost of replacing the valve is going to be about the same as exchanging the whole cylinder.

The cheapest way to exchange your tank is through a service like Blue Rhino or AmeriGas. These services will exchange your empty, obsolete tank with a new, filled tank for about $20. A new tank can cost about $25 to $30. Old cylinders should be taken to a dealer or recycling center. Your local government can probably tell you where to take it. Some dealers might charge you a fee to take your old cylinder. Find someone who will take it for nothing. Or better yet, try on of the exchange services. You might also want to check with local hardware stores. Some stores are offering to replace you tank for you (at a fee of course).

So, if you have one of the affected cylinders, make some calls and get it replaced before your next cookout. You don’t want to be in the middle of a roast or turkey and run out of gas.

Safety tips to reduce the risk of fire or explosion with gas grills:

  • Check grill hoses for cracking, brittleness, holes, and leaks. Make sure there are no sharp bends in the hose or tubing.
  • Move gas hoses as far away as possible from hot surfaces and dripping hot grease.
  • Always keep propane gas containers upright.
  • Never store a spare gas container under or near the grill or indoors.
  • Never store or use flammable liquids, like gasoline, near the grill.
  • Never keep a filled container in a hot car or car trunk. Heat will cause the gas pressure to increase, which may open the relief valve and allow gas to escape.
  • Make sure your spark igniter is consistently generating a spark to create a flame and burn the propane gas. If the flame is not visible, the heavier-than-air propane gas may be escaping and could explode.
  • Never bring the propane tank into the house.


Approximate Cooking Times for different size propane tanks

  • 1 lb. Disposable bottle = Cooking time = approx 2 hours
  • 5 lb. Refillable tank = Cooking time = approx 10 hours
  • 11 lb. Refillable tank = Cooking time = approx 22 hours
  • 20 lb. Refillable tank = Cooking time = approx 40 hours

How Safe is Your Home Playground Equipment? Part 3

Safety First

How Safe is Your Home Playground Equipment? Part 3

Inspection and Maintenance Over Time

Backyard playground safety is a significant priority when we plan and construct a backyard playground for our kids and their friends.  Just as crucial, though, is the attention we pay to playground safety over time.  Playground safety should remain a priority for the duration of the playground equipment’s use.  Regular inspection and upkeep of the playground area is essential for keeping children safe through years of active play.  By following the guidelines for inspection and maintenance presented in this article, you can increase the safety of your playground equipment, protective playground surface, and the surrounding area, and lessen the possibility of injuries.

Over time, the safety of  backyard playground equipment can be undermined by harsh weather conditions and active play.  Frequent inspections of the playground equipment and the condition of each part will reduce the likelihood of injuries.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that the following actions be taken to ensure the safety of your backyard playground equipment:


  • Check nuts and bolts twice a month and tighten as needed.
  • Replace hardware that is worn or that has protrusions or projections.
  • Oil moving metal parts as directed by the manufacturer.
  • Check to make sure protective caps and plugs that cover bolt ends and ends of tubing are in place and tight.  Inspect twice a month and replace as needed.
  • Check the condition of the equipment, looking for signs of wear and tear such as broken or missing parts, bent pipes or tubing, and splintering or decaying wooden surfaces.
  • Check swing seats, ropes, chains, and cables monthly for deterioration and replace as needed.
  • Clean, sand, and repaint rusted areas with a non-lead-based paint.

In addition, sandboxes should be checked often for insects, debris, and dangers such as sharp rocks, sticks, or broken glass.  Sandboxes should be covered when not in use to prevent animals from soiling the sand.

The amount of maintenance required for protective playground surfaces will depend on the type of surface you have chosen. Loose-fill surface materials like wood chips, shredded bark mulch, pea gravel, play sand, and recycled rubber mulch require regular raking, and sometimes tilling, to remove rubbish, loosen compacted areas, and level the surface.  Also, to maintain the appropriate protective depth of your playground surface, add more material to your existing surface once or twice each year.

Synthetic protective playground surfaces like rubber tiles, rubber mats, and poured-in-place surfaces usually need less maintenance than loose-fill surface materials, but they should be inspected frequently.  Look for gouges, burns, or loosened areas, and repair them as needed.  Additionally, sand, rocks, leaves, or other loose material should be swept from the protective surface routinely to lower the possibility of slipping hazards.

The area surrounding your backyard playground can become just as dangerous as the equipment and the protective playground surface if not adequately maintained.  Keep the area free of litter and any objects that may cause injuries, such as fallen tree limbs, sharp sticks, large rocks, and yard tools.  Additionally, adequate drainage should be maintained to prevent water from collecting on and around the protective playground surface.  Areas that are often wet can be potential slipping hazards as well as breeding grounds for fungus, mold, and other bacteria.

In summary, take a few minutes each week to inspect your home playground equipment, protective surface, and surrounding area for possible safety issues. Doing so can significantly improve safety conditions for the children who enjoy your backyard playground.  Keeping kids safe is paramount, and no measure is too great to assure their well being during their explorative and developmental play.   Backyard playground safety is too important to permit any avoidable risk to go undetected.


  • U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Document #323.  “Home Playground Safety Tips.”
  • U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Document #324.  “Outdoor Home Playground Safety Handbook.”  2005.

How Safe is Your Home Playground Equipment? Part 2

Safety First

Protective Playground Surface Options

The protective playground surface is often the most overlooked part of home playground safety. While about 80% of public playgrounds have some type of shock-absorbing protective surfacing under playground equipment, only 9% of home playgrounds do, according to a 2001 playground injury study conducted by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC). The study found that, of the roughly 50,000 injuries annually associated with home playground equipment, 69% of the injuries were a result of falls to a non-protective surface below the equipment.

Most commonly, backyard playgrounds sit on top of grass and dirt, but neither surface provides adequate protection against serious injury due to falls, even falls from 30 inches or less above the ground. Fractures of the arms and hands, and lacerations and contusions of the head and face are the most commonly reported injuries that result from a child falling from playground equipment to a non-protective playground surface such as grass or dirt, as reported by the CPSC.

Luckily, there are a variety of protective playground surface choices for the home playground that meet the need for playground safety. Not surprisingly, playground surfaces range in cost from affordable to expensive, and each choice has its own list of advantages and disadvantages. By comparing and contrasting each type of playground surface material, as presented in this article, you should be able to choose the most suitable playground surface for your home playground.

Critical Height of Home Playground Equipment

The first and most important piece of information to know when considering the available choices for your protective playground surface is critical height. Critical height refers to the “maximum fall height from which a life-threatening head injury would not be expected to occur.” The critical height of your playground equipment equals the height (in feet) of the uppermost part of your playground equipment that is accessible to children. The protective playground surface you select for your home playground should be installed with a depth that is adequate for your equipment’s critical height.

The following table shows the critical height (in feet) for each of the loose-fill surface materials described in this article “when tested in an uncompressed state at depths of 6, 9, and 12 inches. The table also shows the critical height when a 9 inch depth of each material was tested in a compressed state.”

Material Uncompressed
6 Inch Depth
9 Inch Depth
12 Inch Depth
9 Inch Depth
Wood Chips* 7 ft 10 ft 11 ft 10 ft
Shredded Bark Mulch 6 ft 10 ft 11 ft 7 ft
Engineered Wood Fibers** 6 ft 7 ft 12 ft 6 ft
Fine Sand 5 ft 5 ft 9 ft 5 ft
Coarse Sand 5 ft 5 ft 6 ft 4 ft
Fine Gravel 6 ft 7 ft 10 ft 6 ft
Medium Gravel 5 ft 5 ft 6 ft 5 ft
Shredded Tires*** 10-12 ft N/A N/A N/A


*This product was referred to as Wood Mulch in previous versions of the handbook.  The term Wood Chips more accurately describes the product.

**This product was referred to as Uniform Wood Chips in previous versions of the handbook.   In the playground industry, the product is more commonly known as Engineered Wood Fibers.

***This data is from tests conducted by independent testing laboratories on a 6 inch depth of uncompressed shredded tire samples produced by four manufacturers.  The test results reported critical heights which varied from 10 feet to greater than 12 feet.  It is recommended that persons seeking to install shredded tires as a protective surface request test data from the supplier showing the critical heights of the material when it was tested in accordance with ASTM F1292.

As an example, if the critical height of your home playground equipment is 8 feet, then your options, according to the table above, would be 9 inches of compressed or uncompressed wood chips, 9 inches of uncompressed shredded bark mulch, 12 inches of uncompressed play sand, 12 inches of uncompressed pea gravel, or 6 inches of uncompressed recycled rubber mulch. Being aware of some of the advantages and disadvantages of loose-fill surface materials will allow you to narrow the options to meet your particular needs.

Alternatives to loose-fill surface materials are rubber playground tiles, rubber mats, and poured-in-place playground surfaces. These options are offered by a number of manufacturers who may use a variety of shock-absorbing materials. The manufacturers should be able to give you test data that shows the critical height for the protective surfaces they offer.

Loose-Fill Playground Surface Choices

In general, loose-fill playground surface materials like wood chips, shredded bark mulch, pea gravel, play sand, and recycled rubber mulch are most frequently chosen for home playgrounds because they are relatively inexpensive and easy to acquire from a local garden center or home improvement warehouse. Recycled rubber mulch can also be found in a number of colors and sizes through internet suppliers.

Common Features of Loose-Fill Playground Surface Materials


  • A retaining barrier of some kind is necessary for preventing the surface materials from displacement due to active play or weather conditions.
  • Loose-fill materials should never be placed on top of hard surfaces like concrete or asphalt.
  • Adequate drainage beneath the protective surface is important.


  • The initial expense of installing a loose-fill playground surface under your home playground equipment is generally low because the materials are easy to find and are affordable.


  • Over time, loose-fill materials can become compressed, thus reducing their protective abilities.
  • Recommended depths can be compromised when active play or windy conditions displace the loose-fill materials.
  • Rubbish such as broken glass, nails, and other sharp objects which can cause injury can be easily concealed by loose-fill materials.
  • Regular upkeep is required to maintain proper depth and to remove rubbish. Upkeep can include raking, sifting, grading, and leveling.
  • Routine renewal or replacement of loose-fill materials is necessary, which can be time consuming and costly. The exception to this is recycled rubber mulches (see below for more detail).
Wood Chips and Shredded Bark Mulch


  • Wood chips and shredded bark mulch are less abrasive than play sand.
  • Animals are less likely to soil wood chips and shredded bark mulch.
  • Wood chips and shredded bark mulch are aesthetically pleasing.


  • The protective ability of wood chips and shredded bark mulch is decreased in rainy, humid, and freezing weather conditions.
  • Over time, wood chips and shredded bark mulch will become crushed, compacted, and will decompose.
  • Wood chips and shredded bark mulch can develop fungus and mold when wet.
  • Insects are attracted to wood chips and shredded bark mulch.
Pea Gravel


  • Pea gravel will not crush and decompose.
  • Mold and fungus growth are not generally an issue.
  • Animals and insects are less attracted to pea gravel.


  • Pea gravel can be a challenge to walk on.
  • The protective ability of pea gravel is decreased in rainy, humid, and freezing weather conditions.
  • Pea gravel can be a falling danger if displaced from the playground area to a nearby hard surface (sidewalk, decking, or patio, for example).
Play Sand


  • Play sand will not crush and decompose.
  • Mold and fungus growth are not generally an issue.


  • Play sand can be a challenge to walk on.
  • The protective ability of play sand is decreased in rainy and humid weather conditions.
  • Animals are attracted to sand unless it can be covered when not in use.
  • Play sand sticks easily to shoes, clothing, and skin.
  • Play sand can scratch floor surfaces if tracked inside.
Recycled Rubber Mulch


  • Recycled rubber mulch does not generally need to be replaced or renewed each year. Many manufacturers claim that rubber mulch can last about 50 years without needing replacement. Check with recycled rubber mulch suppliers for any guarantees or warrantees that may be available.
  • Rubber mulch tends to be cleaner and less apt than other loose-fill materials to cause dirty clothing, hands, and shoes during active play.
  • Does not cause scrapes, scratches, or splinters from falls.
  • Animals and insects are not attracted to rubber mulch.
  • Mold and fungus growth are not an issue.


  • Recycled rubber mulch may need to be raked routinely to maintain adequate depths in high traffic areas.
  • Colors on recycled rubber mulch may fade over time.

Other Protective Playground Surface Options

Rubber Tiles, Rubber Mats, and Poured-in-Place Surfaces

Rubber tiles, rubber mats, and poured-in-place surfaces are initially more expensive surface options than loose-fill materials, but they generally need very little upkeep over time. To determine whether one of these choices would be more cost effective than a loose-fill material, consider how many children might potentially use your home playground equipment and for how many years. Larger families, for example, may prefer to pay more on the front end for a surface that will be easier and much less expensive to maintain over many years of active use.


  • No containment barriers are usually necessary.
  • Surfaces are accessible to wheelchairs and easy to walk on.
  • Displacement of materials is not an issue, so the protective ability of these surfaces remains consistent even in high traffic areas.
  • Surfaces require very little upkeep over time and are easy to clean.
  • Rubbish such as broken glass and other sharp objects which can cause injury are not easily hidden in these surfaces.
  • Animals and insects are not attracted to the surface materials.
  • Mold and fungus growth are not an issue.


  • The area under the surface usually requires special preparation. Contact the manufacturer or supplier for details.
  • Surfaces may require professional installation.
  • Rubber tiles may curl and cause tripping if not installed correctly.
  • Some surfaces may be damaged by frost.

In summary, no protective playground surface of any type or depth can prevent all injuries. Nonetheless, installing a protective playground surface as the foundation for your home playground equipment is vital for improving playground safety. The most suitable playground surface for your needs is up to you, but whatever option you choose will be a significant step toward protecting children from serious injuries due to falls to the surface.


CPSC Document #323. “Home Playground Safety Tips.”
CPSC Document #324 “Outdoor Home Playground Safety Handbook.” 2005.
CPSC Document #1005. “Playground Surfacing Materials.”
CPSC Report. “Home Playground Equipment-Related Deaths and Injuries.” July 2001.
CPSC Report. “Special Study: Injuries and Deaths Associated with Children’s
Playground Equipment.” April 2001.