How to become a certified playground safety inspector

How to become a certified playground safety inspector

A Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) is a career that was developed by the National Playground Safety Institute (NSPI) and is recognized nationally by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), both can be viewed on the website, No prior experience is necessary but a candidate for the certification must attend a training course, pass a final exam and be re-certified every three years. Upon completion of the training course you will receive a certification that is recognized nationally.

To find out if there is a training course offered in your area you can call your local Parks and Recreation Department or you can visit the web site for the NRPA. You will find a link in the sidebar titled training and development and you will then be directed to a sub-menu with the link National Playground Safety Institute.

This link will take you to information pertaining to:

  • The CPSI Exam, ASTM 1487-01
  • Playground Safety Helpful Links
  • Upcoming Playground Safety Courses
  • NPSI Handbook for the Continuation of Certification
  • Certified Playground Safety Inspector Code of Professional Conduct
  • Playground Safety

The link Upcoming Playground Safety Courses will take you to a list of all the states that are hosting the CPSI training course, the dates of the course, and the phone number of the state agency hosting the course. Many of the states have a direct link to their state agency website.

Training Course

The training course costs on the average $340.00, this includes all course materials, but individual states or Parks departments might offer discounts or attach other fees. For accurate costs and fees, you will need to call the number for the state and city you wish to attend. If you pass the final CPSI exam you will be mailed a certificate from the testing agency in approximately 8 weeks after the results are released.

The course is generally a two-day, 15-hour course although training dates and times will vary depending on the state host. The course entails classroom lectures, discussions, and examples of maintenance problems with playgrounds through a hands-on-training. The course is based on the Consumer’s Product Safety Commission (CPSC) guidelines and the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM).

Candidates will receive Play it Safe: and Anthology of Playground Safety edited by Monty L. Christiansen and published by the NRPA.

Course objectives will include such items as: understanding the standards and guidelines for public playgrounds, identify safety hazards within the play environment, establish repair priorities, fix items on-site, provide the necessary knowledge to establish a comprehensive program of playground and safety within a given agency and develop long-term plans to upgrade playgrounds.

Course content will provide candidates with information to injury statistics, entrapment and entanglement test procedures, safety surfacing, accessibility, layout, and design, reducing the risk of injury, and will also visit sites for hands-on learning.

Final Exam

The final exam will be held on the last day of the course and has a $100.00 fee. If you fail the exam you may request a re-scoring of the answer sheet. In order to request a re-scoring, you must pay a fee of $15.00 and the request must be submitted within 60 days after the test date.

The exam is 100-130 questions, multiple-choice, with questions regarding everything from the latest regulations to safety guidelines to auditing procedures.

Continuation of Certification

A CPSI must be re-certified every 3 years in order to ensure that each CPSI has continued knowledge of the safety standards and risk management techniques. There is a 90-day grace period after the expiration of your certification but if you lapse beyond that grace period you will have to take the entire course over again, paying all the fees as if it is the first time.

To register for the re-certification exam you should visit the NRPA/NSPI website for a list of exam dates and places. Then you will need to contact the state host where you are planning to sit for the exam and register with them by filling out whatever registration forms they provide to you. You will need to bring these items with you to the exam: Two sharpened No. 2 pencils, one form of legal identification (driver’s license, state ID cards, passport, or military ID. School and work identification are not acceptable). It is advised to bring a watch to pace yourself, as you will be given a two-hour time limit.

If you arrive late to the exam you will not be allowed in and must wait until the next scheduled re-certification exam. If you need to leave the room for any reason you need permission from the test administrator and will not be allowed any make-up time. No reference materials, books, or ballpoint pens are allowed. The test administrator will not answer questions regarding the content of the exam. Listen to all instructions and read all the information provided in the exam booklet that will be provided.

A test administrator has the right to excuse a candidate based on any of the following: candidates admission is unauthorized, candidate creates a disturbance, is abusive or uncooperative, attempts to take the exam under an assumed name or identity, attempts to remove exams or exam materials from the center, or if the candidate receives help either from others in the room, written or recorded material or is suspected of doing so.

Scores will be released by the testing agency six to eight weeks after the testing date.

Further Studies

It is advised to read up on Playground Safety before taking the course. Some suggested readings are:
Playground Safety is No Accident 3rd edition: Certified Course for Playground Safety Inspectors Manual: This manual will have the course syllabus and exam questions are taken from this book. Also included in the manual are the publications: Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Handbook for Public Playground Safety and ASTM F1487-01 Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use. However, the ASTM 1487-01 guidelines can also be found on the NRPA website.

You will receive material in the mail before attending the classes, read this material. Do not rely only on the course and speakers to teach you everything you need to know for the exam or to be a successful CPSI.

Professional Conduct

Passing the course and exam are the technical part of becoming a CPSI but there are professional standards that must be upheld as well. Certificants who do not uphold these standards of professional conduct are subject to losing their certification if the Executive Board of the NPSI finds a negative review in the reviewing process.

A CPSI must:

Never conduct a safety audit or inspection without the knowledge of the playground owner.

Hold the safety of playground users paramount in all professional services.
Maintain privacy: never provide your findings of an audit or inspection to anyone other than playground owners without documented permission or authorization from the owners to do so.

Never promote nor discredit a specific brand or manufacturer of playground equipment and do not conduct a safety audit or inspection with these intentions. You are not a salesperson.

Not discredit the findings of other CPSI, if the playground has been previously inspected, without first consulting that CPSI directly regarding their findings.

Always advise the playground owners or employers of seriously dangerous conditions promptly verbally and in writing and do not omit any findings from the official documentation or final report. Your goal is safety.
Prioritized all identifiable non-compliances must be according to the standard norm of foreseeable consequences.

Utilize the most current standards of care that is acceptable by the NPSI.
Maintain currency and competency of playground auditing and inspecting procedures including knowledge of current safety criterion and use of testing tools.

Use a standard playground safety audit to identify and document all situations that fall within the non-compliance standards of care along with the citation of the specific reference portion of the criterion document.

Every state has a CPSI and the demand is growing, it is advisable that every community should have a CPSI. If you can maintain these standards and pass the course and exams then you can join this growing and very rewarding field.

Every state

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