Around this time of year, retailers across the UK will be sourcing their children’s dress-up costumes, months ahead of Halloween.
Over the years, these outfits have become ever more popular with children, but also ever more elaborate in terms of their design and the fabrics and finishes involved in making them.
Last Halloween, following a much publicised incident in 2014 involving the daughter of well-known BBC presenter Claudia Winkleman, there was an intense focus on the safety of these outfits and, in particular, whether flammability requirements are robust enough.
Dress-up outfits, like any clothing, can burn when accidentally exposed to an open flame or a significant heat source. The key piece of legislation governing the safety of these outfits is the European Toy Safety Directive.
The directive classifies a dress-up outfit as a toy and requires it to comply with the EU toy safety flammability standard known as EN 71-2.
Not ‘robust’ enough
It is the view of the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and its members however, that given it was introduced in the 1970s when children’s outfits were far less elaborate, this test is no longer robust enough.
Safety test methods must be updated and adapted to reflect new hazards posed by dress-up outfits, particularly given the very vulnerable nature of the end user – young children.
“Safety test methods must be updated and adapted to reflect new hazards posed by dress-up outfits, particularly given the very vulnerable nature of the end user – young children”
Fintan Hastings, BRC
Acting on its concerns around the existing test standard, the BRC worked with its members to create two new codes of practice to help ensure that all children’s dress-up outfits, whether sold in store or online, meet a higher safety standard.
One of these codes recommends additional flammability warning labels both on packaging and the product itself, going beyond the minimum requirements laid down in law.
The other code introduces a new interim flammability test method, which was developed in conjunction with the UK’s major testing laboratories and experts.
Both codes of practice will be freely available for any retailer, manufacturer or other interested party to consult.
New EU standards
In addition to developing the new codes of practice, the BRC is working with the British Standards Technical Committee to approach CEN – the European body which brings together the National Standardisation Bodies of 33 European countries – with a view to reviewing the appropriateness of the existing test standard EN 71-2.
The BRC hopes that its interim test method could eventually be replaced by a new European standard that is more robust and reflects the hazards presented by today’s style of dress-up costumes.
The BRC and its members take very seriously their duty of care to their customers and their responsibility for selling products that are safe and legal.
Parents in particular have the right to expect that when they buy a dress-up outfit for their child that it meets the highest safety standards.
Retailers are going a step further than what the law requires of them, but in order to minimise the risk to young children going forward, the law itself must be updated.
- Fintan Hastings is senior external affairs adviser at the British Retail Consortium