RoSPA's top 10 safety tips on Toy Safety
- Buy toys only from recognised outlets;
- Make sure the toy is suitable for the child, check the age range;
- Be particularly careful with toys for children under three;
- Be wary of young children playing with older children's toys;
- Check for loose hair and small parts, sharp edges and points;
- Ensure that garden swings and slides are robust and are not a strangulation hazard;
- Check toys regularly for wear and repair or dispose of them where necessary;
- Keep the play area tidy;
- Follow the instructions and warnings provided with toys;
- Supervise young children at play.
Christmas Novelties – A Warning from Trading Standards
Sales of toys are governed by strict regulations to protect young children from choking; not so Christmas novelties, but can you tell the difference?
Play is not risk-free but we can control most of the hazards children are exposed to. Toys must be safe by law but how they are used and the age of the child are important factors in preventing accidents.
Although toys are involved in over 40,000 accidents each year 1, their safety is only part of the problem. Many accidents involving toys occur when people trip over them and when babies play with toys intended for older children.
Toys and the law
European Directive [2009/48/EC] was introduced into British law by the Toys (Safety) Regulations 1995 2 made under the Consumer Protection Act 1987. It prescribes Essential Safety Requirements regarding general principles including design, construction and composition and also particular risks.
Particular risks address the following hazards:
- Physical and mechanical
- Chemical properties
- Electrical properties
"Toy" is defined as "any product or material designed or clearly intended for use in play by children of less than 14 years of age" but does not include such items as children's fashion jewellery or Christmas decorations.
Third parties, as well as the actual users of toys, must be protected against health hazards and physical injury when the toy is used as intended or in a foreseeable way, bearing in mind the normal behaviour of children.
This places a considerable responsibility on manufacturers to anticipate how their products will be used and to take action at the design stage to prevent injury being caused through foreseeable misuse.
The harmonised European Standard EN 71 3 provides the recognised interpretation of the legal requirements.
The law is enforced by Trading Standards Officers who are able to take immediate action. They can be contacted at any local Unitary, County or London Borough Authority.
Toy safety advice
Although illegal, unsafe toys can still be found on sale so it is vital to shop with care.
- Look for the mandatory European Community (CE) symbol. This is a claim by the manufacturer that his toy meets the requirements of the EC Toy Safety Directive 4. Products without the CE mark may not be intended to be used as toys but are novelties which may not be safe for children to play with.
- Look also for the voluntary British Toy and Hobby Association's 'Lion Mark'. A condition of BTHA trade association membership is that members' toys will meet the statutory safety requirements.
- Buy from suppliers with a good reputation for safe and reliable toys. Many will be members of trade associations whose rules call on them to meet high standards.
- If buying toys from a jumble sale or car boot sale, extra care needs to be taken.
- Make sure the toys are suitable. Some children, particularly those under three, are more vulnerable, particularly to choking, and less able to cope with particular toys than older children. It should also be remembered there will be significant differences in the abilities of those in the same age group and those children with special needs.
- Avoid the following:
• Toys with loose pile fabric or hair which sheds easily presenting a choking hazard
• Toys with small components or parts which detach on which a child could choke
• Toys with sharp points and edges or finger traps
• Loose ribbons on toys and long neck ties on children's costumes
• Small toys sold with items of food.
- Check toys periodically to see that they have not become dangerously worn revealing sharp points and edges or filling materials. Dispose of them if they are no longer safe, or if they are a particular favourite with your child have the toy properly repaired.
- Children under three years of age should never be allowed to play with toys which are marked as being unsuitable for them. With some toys it is important to supervise children during play, e.g. chemistry sets. The instructions must be observed and should warn you about all the hazards and how to avoid or control them.
- Encourage children to play with one toy at a time, to be tidy and put toys away after play. This applies whether at home or at school or playgroup. Many accidents are caused by people tripping over toys left lying around, particularly on staircases.
Toys and battery safety
Many toys are battery-powered, normally a good safe source of portable power. Problems can occur, however, if the batteries are not used correctly.
Safe battery use
- Always take care to fit batteries the right way round, observing the + and - marks on the battery and compartment
- When replacing batteries, use the same type and always replace a complete set
- Always remove spent batteries from toys and never dispose of them in such a way that they will come into contact with fire
- Store unused batteries in their packaging and away from metal objects which may cause them to short circuit
- Never charge ordinary batteries either in a charger or by applying heat to them
- Small batteries, such as the mercury disc batteries used in some watches, electronic games and hearing aids, present a danger particularly to young children who can choke on them or swallow them and be poisoned. Never leave them lying around and make sure that children know not to put them in their mouths, ears or up their noses
- Young children should not charge batteries. If older children are allowed to remove or charge batteries, they must be carefully supervised by an adult at all times.
1 Home Accident Surveillance System . . . 22nd Annual report . 1998 data. London: Department of Trade and Industry, 2000.
2 Toys (Safety) Regulations 2011 , London: The Stationery Office, 2011. SI 2011/1881.
3 EN 71: 1993/98 S afety of toys.
4 88/379/EEC Council directive of 3 May 1998 . . . concerning the safety of toys.
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