Every year in Ireland and abroad, thousands of new toys and other products aimed at children enter the market. It is important to be aware of safety standards when buying products or toys for children. There are specific rules in Ireland and the EU to protect children from playing with unsafe toys. Specific rules also exist for ensuring the safety of children’s products, for example, baby prams, pushchairs, pacifiers (soothers), cots and clothing. Playthings and equipment such as swings, slides, pencils and pens are also regulated. Most of these rules are based on the standards which are developed by the European Committee for standardisation (CEN). The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) develops standards governing safety, quality, design, performance etc. of specific products for sale in Ireland.
Since 1990, legislation has been in place in Ireland which prohibits the placing of toys on the market unless they meet minimum safety requirements. This law is set down in S.I. No 32 of 1990, European Communities (Safety of Toys) Regulation, 1990.
In addition, EU rules state that any product offered for sale in the EU that conforms with certain specific health, safety and environmental protection standards must carry a CE mark. The CE mark is a declaration by the producer that the product conforms to all the applicable EU legislation. View the CE mark here
A toy, is defined in the law as a product intended for children under 14 years to play with.
Playthings (i.e., sports equipment, metal darts, model steam engines, fashion jewellery etc) are not covered by the same legislation. These items should only be used by children old enough to understand the risks associated with them.
Adults should supervise children using playthings where possible.
The following are some basic guidelines when buying safe products and toys. Items should be:
A child’s product that contains detachable or small parts should be marked as unsuitable for children under 36 months. Any specific hazard that exists should be drawn to your attention. For example, children’s fingers can easily become trapped by a moving parts in a product (including toys that fold or hinges/clasps on cots etc.). Bicycles and go-karts etc. should have adequate brakes and guards for chains and other moving parts. If bicycles are being used on public roads, they should carry adequate lighting. Read more about lighting of bicycles here.
It is common sense to ensure that toys are used safely. Toys with a CE mark indicate that they are safe to use as they were intended to be. That is, for the age group they are considered appropriate to.
For example, a toy suitable for a ten year old can be dangerous if played with by a three year old.
Electrical toys should carry the CE mark to ensure compliance with EU safety standards. No electrical toy should be sold (or given out for free) that exceeds 24 volts. Electrical items (such as lamps etc.) exist that are intended to appeal to children but these are most definitely NOT toys and should carry a label accordingly worded. All parts of the toy should be properly insulated to prevent a risk of contact with live wires. Safety instructions on electrical toys should be clear and precise and should be heeded by consumers.
The following information should appear on the packaging or the product itself
The Irish technical standard mark can be placed on the toy along with the CE mark. This indicates that the toy complies with all safety regulations. The most common Standard for Toys is called IS EN 71.
If you suspect that a toy is unsafe you should contact the National Consumer Agency (NCA) who will investigate the matter. Similarly, if you or a child has been harmed by a toy, you should also contact the NCA for advice and information. You can find more information in the NCA's booklet on toy safety (pdf).
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