Products and safety issues

UK-only standards

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While most safety standards applying to consumer products in the UK are identical to the standards in other European countries (and published by the British Standards Institute as a "BS EN") not all older national standards have yet been replaced.  Occasionally even a completely new "BS" may be published for products not otherwise covered by standards.

 For example common European standards apply in UK to cribs and cradles (BS EN 1130), cots (BS EN 716), bunk beds (BS EN 747) and beds for adults (BS EN 1725), but not for beds (other than bunks) designed for children who have outgrown a cot.

Within the UK the safety of normal height children’s beds can now be judged against a national standard BS 8509. However, there is as yet no standard in the UK for the popular 'mid-height sleeper' or 'captains bed' with a mattress base between 400 and 800 mm above the floor.

There is also a UK-only standard (BS 7972) for separate bedguards intended to stop children rolling out when they begin to sleep in a bed without barriers.

For products covered only by General Product Safety Regulations, compliance with a voluntary standard (whether a BS or BS EN) is not a pre-requisite to allow the product to be placed on the UK market, but the levels of safety and means of protection provided by the standard are likely to be taken into account by courts if the product is considered unsafe by enforcement authorities or if there is personal injury claim by a user of the product.

 

Last Updated ( Sunday, 02 November 2008 19:00 )
 

Multi-function child-care products

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One of the most innovative areas in baby and child-care products is combining in one piece of hardware the functions that would previously have required two or more separate products. For example a cot that can be fitted with a changing table or a high chair that morphs into a baby swing.  Parents are now offered ‘baby transport systems’ incorporating a ‘seat unit in which a baby can sleep, be carried, be strapped into car or be propelled by an adult while jogging.  Given the number of separate items a baby might otherwise need, parents are attracted to products that offer such a saving in floor space required. Unfortunately, in the child care product sector safety standards usually address the hazards of one or two dedicated functions. In innovative designs that are multi-purpose or incorporate additional features or actions, additional hazards may arise which will not be revealed simply by testing to the existing standards. Such products pose distributors a higher risk of facing investigation by trading standards, complaints from customers and – and potentially a major recall and/or injury liability claims.


 

For example, a product that combined the functions of a reclined bouncing seat, a rocking cradle and a carry cot, introduced a route for a baby laying flat to shuffle backwards until its head dropped into a gap between the top of the seat and the sun hood, allowing the child’s torso to flip over trapping its neck and suffocating it. The presumed sequence was reproduced using an appropriately weighted manikin.


 

 

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 29 October 2008 17:14 )
 

Ever more demanding European Directives

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In January 2007 The Commission tabled detailed proposals to strengthen EU-rules on the safety of toys replacing and modernize the 20 years old Toys Directive. The revision has a threefold objective: first and foremost there will be new and higher safety requirements to cope with recently identified hazards, secondly it will strengthen manufacturers’ and importers' responsibility for the marketing of toys and finally it enhances the market surveillance obligations of Member States.

The Commission proposal is now being discussed with the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers with a view to an adoption in the co-decision procedure.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 04 November 2008 12:31 ) Read more...
 

Small importers need key staff to develop deeper product safety knowledge

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Small European importers and traders and small Chinese manufacturers were accused of being the weakest link in the product safety chain in a report by independent experts released by the European Commission in June 2008.

The five-month analysis entitled "Evaluating Business Safety Measures in the Toy Supply Chain" was carried out at the initiative of the European Commission, after a series of high profile recalls in 2007.The main gaps in small businesses capabilities included:a lack of in-depth knowledge of the applicable legislation and standards, a lower number of dedicated personnel, and weaker systems of quality management and supplier control.

All along the supply chain technical files were found to be of poor quality or absent altogether despite being a compliance requirement. Other common problesm were with age grading of toys and poor recall management procedures.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 04 November 2008 12:23 ) Read more...
 

Ad-hoc government bans

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UK consumer minister Melanie Johnson, banned all shops from selling Yo-balls (which consist of a liquid-filled plastic ball on the end of a stretch of elasticated plastic) in April 2003, nine months after they began appearing on the shelves of shops. She said: "It is clear this toy poses a very serious risk to children and, in light of the findings of our safety tests, I am banning their supply. I do not want to spoil the fun that sensible use of the toy can bring, but on balance, I cannot ignore children’s safety. The government action – sparked by incidents of near strangulation – was the first ban on selling a new toy to be imposed since 1991, when the sale of jelly balls, bouncing balls that broke into pieces, was stopped.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 04 November 2008 12:27 ) Read more...
 
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