Thanks to Gaynor Humphrey of Best Years who has been kind enough to write this blog for us detailing updates to toy safety regulations, as well as some of the challenges faced by manufacturers and retailers who deal with children's toys.
Toy safety is continually evolving and changing as new challenges, new processes and new toys are introduced. In order to ensure that we keep up to date with these changes we attend seminars by people such as Bureau Veritas, an accredited test house.
Last week we attended one such toy safety seminar last week. The seminar was run by someone who has been in toy safety for over 42 years and has seen many, many changes in that time! He has also seen lots of toy manufacturers being fined for toy safety issues, including some very big fines, but it’s important for both consumers and manufacturers to know that people producing poor quality toys are being caught and then pay the price for poor product development.
One of the key issues which challenge many toy makers are the use of chemicals. We now have so much more information about which chemicals are harmful and which are safe than ever before. This has been one of the biggest changes to toy safety regulations in the past few years.
We always advise new parents that before accepting dusted down toys for their baby from a kind neighbour’s attic they should remember that toy safety evolves and things which were once deemed to be safe would now be banned. There was a toy placed on the market in the 1950s that had actual uranium ore in it! Supposedly it was an educational toy but it’s not something which would be allowed to be sold today. And did you know that the green arms on an alarm clock used to be mildly radioactive?
A big change to the regulations over the last couple of years is all the paperwork that needs to be held for each product. There are different processes which need to be followed by manufacturers, distributors and retailers but all of them require paperwork to be held to prove that processes have been followed:
- As a manufacturer we must ensure that the toy complies with essential safety requirements. Technical files, safety assessments, declarations of conformity are all part of the paperwork now required for each toy. We also need to ensure that each toy has our address, a batch code (for traceability), a product code and the CE mark.
- As an importer/distributor we must ensure that the manufacturer has all the relevant paperwork and that the product has our name and address on it.
- As a museum shop it is important to note you also need to ensure that your supplier has the relevant paperwork available. You should ensure that your storage conditions do not invalidate any safety legislation (too cold/hot/damp etc.) and any transport you use (i.e. if you send the toy to someone) do not jeopardise the toy’s compliance.
Everyone in the chain has a responsibility to ensure the product that ends up on the shelf and is bought by a customer is safe.
A few bite size bits of info:
- Decorative objects for festivities and celebrations are not classed as toys – therefore they do not need a warning on them. The age warning is only used when the product is classed as a toy.
- All pen lids now should have air ventilation in the cap – have a look at the pen you’re using…does it have one? This air ventilation will allow the person to breathe if its accidently swallowed.
- Warning on toys. Because any warning on the toy is deemed to determine the decision on the purchase of a toy (if you are buying something for a baby you need to know that it is suitable from birth) the warning must be visible to the consumer at point of purchase. This is especially important if you are selling online. Your product description must include any safety notices or information.
There were a couple of big toy issues for toy manufacturers and for test houses in 2018.
- Slime – the issue was that how do you define slime. Is it a solid or is it a liquid as it comes in both forms and therefore could be tested in one of two ways. Since slime includes chemicals, Trading Standards verged on the side of caution which generated a lot of negative press as products had to be recalled. If you stock slime, then you may want to check with your supplier that it is not subject to any concerns from Trading Standards.
- Squishies – these caused a major headache with regards to age grading and several countries in the EU have banned them. They are made from specialised rubberised foam and many have scent added to make them more attractive. The trouble was that the foam can be picked off by little fingers and given it smells so delicious the foam quickly ended up in the mouth and was swallowed. If you are thinking of buying some in for your museum shop, then the best advice is to buy ones which don’t smell. That way you’ll know that they are a range with less chemicals in them than many other ranges. Again, please note, they cannot be labelled as 3+ as they are indisputably attractive to younger children.
It is worth noting that both of these toys had passed test when first designed and manufactured and it was only as they became more popular that they were subjected to closer scrutiny and issues identified.
So what safety issues are we looking out for in 2019?
- Smart Toys – The Government is considering regulating connected toys with regard to personal information. These are toys which are designed to connect to the internet to give the child an interactive experience. Smart toys often have microphones, cameras and recording devices. All these things store data obtained from the child and usually it is then stored in the cloud. At the moment there is no toy safety regulations as to what can be stored, for how long and where it should be stored. Given that data such as your child’s name, age, date of birth and sometimes even address are normally stored it makes sense that there should be some parameters around this issue.
- Sequin plush – over the last year there has been a surge of soft toys released which are partially or completely covered in sequins. There is no doubt that these toys are attractive to children under 3 but manufacturers have been labelling them as suitable for 3+. Labelling a sequin covered soft toy as 3+ meant that the sequins did not have to pass the test for small parts (i.e. be small enough to swallow safely or secured on to the toy in such a way as to ensure that they could not be detached). However, this is going to change as toy safety authorities release updated legislation to ensure that manufacturers test these toys to be suitable for babies. We are assuming most of these toys will fail so please check if you carry them in your shop.
Toy safety is always changing but your toy suppliers will know this and will keep on top of the new requirements. If you have any worries just ask them, they’ll be delighted to share their knowledge with you!