History of the role and relationship between the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), the National Playground Safety Institute (NPSI), the Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) Course and Exam, and the International Playground Safety Institute, LLC (IPSI).

National Recreation and Park Association
The NRPA is the leading advocacy organization dedicated to the advancement of public parks and recreation opportunities. Founded in 1965 through the merger of 5 national organizations dedicated to the same cause, NRPA has grown over the years - in total membership, in outreach efforts, in building partnerships, and in serving as the voice and defender of parks and recreation.

NRPA is funded through membership dues, conference and event sales, and charitable contributions. These funds are used to conduct research, education, and policy initiatives on behalf of the movement.

NRPA is a non-profit organization organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. They are headquartered in Ashburn, Virginia with a Washington, DC location for our Public Policy team.
To learn more about NRPA, review their Web site or call 1.800.626.NRPA (6772).

In 1989, a group of National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) members of its National Society for Park Resources branch met to discuss the feasibility of creating a playground safety-training program to complement the latest playground safety standards and guideline efforts of the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

In 1991, National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) conducted the first National Playground Safety Institute (NPSI) Program at their National Congress in Baltimore, Maryland. Since then, the NRPA has conducted close to 1,000 Institutes training multitude of interdisciplinary participants whose total is rapidly approaching 100,000 world-wide. The CPSI Program is an internationally recognized training program with an ever-changing national registry of over 7,500 Certified Playground Safety Inspectors. The number listed in the NRPA CPSI Registry is in a constant state of flux due to the program’s 3-year retesting requirement to maintain certification.

The NPSI and its CPSI Program was set up to be administered according to the By Laws of the NRPA and was therefore managed by the NRPA with guidance from its NPSI Advisory Board. The NRPA Executive Director established the NPSI Advisory Board to function under the NRPA and NPSI Memorandum of Understanding, signed May 22, 1993.

From that date on, the National Playground Safety Institute was officially recognized as part of the committee structure within the NRPA. NPSI became their information resource specializing in public use playground issues. In 2006, the NPSI Advisory Board was dissolved as part of the NRPA’s governance restructuring plan. From that date forward the NRPA Staff has taken over responsibility for all aspects of the NPSI and the CPSI Course operation including all long range planning efforts and all playground related issues that would be related to its membership. The CPSI Program continues to be administered through the activities of four CPSI Program Committees. These are: Certification, Exam, Curriculum, and Instructor.

Just prior to dissolving the NPSI, the International Playground Safety Institute, LLC was independently created and incorporated in 2005 by Monty Christiansen, Professor Emeritus, Penn State University incorporated to facilitate the vision of the NPSI worldwide. Monty Christiansen was one of the three co-founders of the NPSI and the CPSI Course along with Ms. Fran Wallach, PhD, Director of Total Recreation Management, New York, and Ken Kutska then Director of Parks and Planning for the Wheaton, Illinois Park District.

Monty has passed on the mantel of IPSI to Ken in 2008 and it has been an independent contractor to the NRPA to facilitate and administer the CPSI Course and Exam internationally. IPSI has provided other training and workshops internationally to many Asian Associations concerned with public playground safety, the promotion of play, playground maintenance and inspections, and accessible play and/or inclusive play for all.

In furtherance of the NRPA's mission and goals the CPSI Program and International Playground Safety Institute, LLC continues to;

  • Promote the latest public playground industry standards and guidelines as the most desirable standard of care for public use playgrounds.
  • Promote the rights of children to play in a safe environment and educate the public on the importance of play in the development of children.
  • Develop and maintain a voluntary certification program for anyone responsible for public use playground operations including; design, installation, maintenance, inspection, and supervision of playgrounds.
  • Establish and maintain a comprehensive body of knowledge on public use playgrounds.
  • Provide a framework for the development of a comprehensive public use playground operations and safety program based on the most current public use playground safety standard of care.
  • Provide input to help develop responsible public policy for the guaranteed safety of our children while at the same time advocates sound fiscal responsibility to provide resources for the ongoing maintenance and support of the policy.

Mission Statement of the Certified Playground Safety Inspector Course
"It is the mission of the National Recreation and Park Association's CPSI Course to teach our public how to provide a safe challenging play environment for all children."

CPSI Course Vision Statement
In order to accomplish this mission we must all be able to identify a safe challenging play environment by:

  • Promoting an understanding of the current standard of care that effects the playground environment.
  • Develop training that promotes and combines knowledge and experience in identifying and eliminating non-compliant safety concerns in the playground environment.
  • And, provide materials and resources that when coupled with knowledge and experience in eliminating safety hazards in the playground environment will enable playground providers to establish a comprehensive program of playground management.

This is no easy task. For over three decades everyone involved in the development and delivery of the CPSI Courses have continuously worked to provide the most current information available to facilitate our mission. The NRPA develops and administers the Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) Course and Exam to assist NRPA in attaining their Missions in accordance with their By-Laws and the CPSI Professional Code of Practice for all Certified Playground Safety Inspectors (CPSI).

Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI)
Code of Professional Conduct
This code sets forth the standards of professional conduct to be observed by Certified Playground Safety Inspectors upon confirmation by the NRPA National Certification Board as they act in the capacity of that certification.  Individuals shall, in their professional activities, sustain and advance the integrity, honor and veracity of their certification by:

  • Holding the safety of playground user’s paramount in all professional services;
  • Utilizing the most current standards of care (as delineated by the many standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials, as well as the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Handbook on Public Playground Safety);
  • Maintaining currency and competency in playground safety inspection procedures including use of testing tools and knowledge of current safety criteria;
  • Identifying and documenting all situations which are in non-compliance with the standards of care along with the citation of the specific reference portion of the criterion document, using a standard playground safety inspection process;
  • Prioritizing all identified non-compliances according to a standard norm of foreseeable consequences;
  • Advising employers or clients of seriously dangerous conditions in the most prompt manner as well as part of a written report, omitting no adverse findings from the official documentation of the safety inspection;
  • Never conducting a safety audit or inspection without the knowledge and consent of the playground owner;
  • Never contradicting the findings of another CPSI without first consulting directly with the first inspector regarding the basis for these findings;
  • Never conducting a safety audit of a playground with the intent to discredit an owner or manufacturer or to promote sale of other equipment or products; and
  • Never providing findings of an inspection to anyone other than the playground owner unless authorized by the owner to do so.

Individuals failing to practice these professional standards shall be subject to loss of professional certification upon a negative finding by a review process and enforcement procedures established by the Executive Committee of the Certified Playground Safety Inspector Certification Committee.

The NRPA continues to partner with its State Affiliate Park and Recreation Associations to provide CPSI training within each State since the beginning of the program.

The IPSI has been conducting training related to play and playground safety around the world before its incorporation as early as 2001.

Some of its international clients include the U.S. Department of Defense (Overseas Military Installations), the Singapore National Parks Board’s Centre of Urban Greenery and Ecology (CUGE), the Landscape Industry Association of Singapore, the Playright Children’s Play Association of Hong Kong, the Playground Safety Association of Malaysia (PSAM) and the Japanese Park Facilities Association (JPFA).