Products sold in Ireland must be safe to use. Irish and EU law contains protections to help make sure that the products you buy are safe.
Under the European Communities (General Product Safety) Regulations 2004, products can be banned from sale in the Irish market if they are unsafe.
Certain categories of products sold in Ireland must meet mandatory sector specific standards. These are introduced to prevent or reduce the risk of injury to consumers.
A number of government agencies enforce product safety rules. These include the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) - see ‘Who enforces product safety rules?’ below.
Product safety standards
There are mandatory safety standards that protect consumers from unsafe products.
Inherent risk warning
Sometimes, there are inherent risks (risks that cannot be avoided) associated with products when they are used normally. Where this is the case, producers must warn you of any dangers that could result in you not properly using the product. For example, a warning should be on the packaging for candles stating ‘never leave a naked flame unattended’.
CE Marking Ireland and Europe
The CE mark on a product is a manufacturer’s assurance that the product meets all EU Directives and health, safety and environmental protection standards. Any product that is covered by an EU Directive must carry a CE mark.
The CE marking should:
- Be clearly affixed permanently to the product itself, or
- Appear in the instruction manual or on the packaging (if it not possible to affix to the product, because of the nature of the product)
The European Commission has more information about the CE marking.
You can take steps to ensure that the product you are buying is safe:
- Always buy from trustworthy retailers and websites. Trustworthy shops take care with the products they sell and usually accept returns. Rogue traders tend to ignore health and safety rules, and may also sell fake or counterfeit products. The CCPC has tips for checking that a business or website is legitimate.
- Check for the CE mark. Counterfeit products may sometimes copy the CE mark or use the China Export mark which is very similar. However, the China Export mark means the product was manufactured in China. You can read more tips to help you avoid buying counterfeit products (pdf).
- Read all warnings and instructions. Be aware of age and safety recommendations, especially in the case of toys.
Rules for specific types of products
Some products with extra risks have specific minimum safety requirements.
Safety requirements for Personal Protective Equipment
Personal protective equipment (PPE) is any device or appliance designed to protect against health and safety hazards. Personal protective equipment covers a broad range of items from simple devices like sunglasses, bicycle helmets and reflective jackets to chemical hazard suits and safety harnesses.
The safety requirements for PPE is set out in S.I. 136/2018. The CCPC has responsibility to check that personal protective equipment used for leisure or in the home complies with the law. The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) monitors all personal protective equipment used in business and industry and has a useful FAQ on PPE.
The European Commission has information on personal protective equipment. This includes updates on the measures it has taken to increase production capacity and accelerate the approval of PPE during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Safety requirements for face masks and face coverings
Wearing a face covering is recommended to help stop the spread of COVID-19. In some situations, wearing a face covering is mandatory. Read more in our document on face coverings and COVID-19.
A medical face mask is PPE and must meet safety requirements set out by law covering PPE – see above.
A face covering (or barrier mask) is not a medical mask. Face coverings or barrier masks are not PPE and do not have to meet the same safety requirements.
Face coverings should be produced in line with National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) specifications. The specifications include:
- Clear use of the words ‘barrier mask’
- Name and address of the producer
- Any warnings or safety information
- Instructions for use
The CCPC has published a Face Masks Product Safety Q&A.
Safety requirements for toys and products made for children
Only toys that meet minimum safety requirements can be sold in Ireland and the EU. The rules on toy safety are set out in the EU Directive on toy safety 2009/48/EC. The Directive strengthened the laws on safety requirements and required toys to carry the CE marking. SI 14/2011(as amended) gives effect to the Directive in Ireland.
General guidelines for buying safe products for children
A toy is a product intended for children aged under 14 to play with. Equipment children use (such as sports equipment) that are not toys come under the General Product Safety Directive.
Toys that meet national and EU safety rules should:
- Be strong and resilient (should not break easily)
- Be made of materials that do not burn easily
- Be made of non-toxic materials
- Carry the CE mark
A child’s product that contains detachable or small parts should be marked as unsuitable for children under 36 months. Bikes and go-karts should have adequate brakes and guards for chains and other moving parts. Bikes used on public roads should have certain lighting fitted as standard.
What safety standards should electric toys meet?
Electrical toys must not have a voltage above 24 volts and all parts should be insulated to prevent risk of contact with live wires. These toys must come with clear and detailed safety instructions. Electrical items aimed at children, such as lamps are not considered toys and should carry a label stating this.
The CCPC has more information on buying toys and toy safety.
Safety requirements for electrical products
All electrical products, within certain voltage limits, sold in Ireland and the EU, must meet health and safety standards. The rules are set out in the Low Voltage Directive and S.I. No. 343/2016 gives effect to the Directive in Ireland.
The Directive applies to a wide range of electrical products including:
- Household appliances
- Mobile phone chargers
- Power supply units
- LED lamps
You should always pay attention to any warnings about potential hazards that are on products (for example, warnings on hairdryers such as ‘not for use in bathrooms’).
As plugs, sockets and leads in Ireland are different to the rest of Europe the NSAI has developed electricity standards to make sure that safety standards are met. Any electrical item that you buy in Ireland should come with the standard plug. The standard plug is a three-pin IS411 (BS 1363 type). Never attempt to place a two-pin plug into a three-pin socket. The Electricity Supply Board (ESB) has more advice on staying safe.
Safety requirements for gas appliances
Gas burning appliances have to follow strict standards to ensure that they are safe for use. These requirements are set out in SI no 101 of 1992 and SI No 150 of 1995. A gas burning appliance includes items such as household heating boilers, gas cookers, gas lighting and gas-fired heaters. Manufacturers must follow rules about warning notices on appliances, the type of gas used, and pressure levels. All gas appliances produced since 1997 in use in the EU must also carry a CE mark.
Gas installation regulations Ireland
By law, you must have your gas appliance fitted by a registered gas installer. The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) regulates gas safety in Ireland and has appointed the Register of Gas Installers of Ireland (RGII) as the gas safety supervisory body. Companies working on gas installations, fitting of gas appliances or providing appliance servicing must be registered with RGII and meet safety requirements.
Safety requirements for furniture
Anyone manufacturing, selling or repairing furniture in Ireland must only use materials (including foams, fillings, coverings and frames) that meet fire safety standards. This requirement is set out in S.I. 316 of 1995. Furniture products must pass what is known as the ‘cigarette test’. This test proves that covers, foam and lining materials are not likely to go on fire by a lit match or a cigarette. All furniture that pass this test must carry a label to show it meets Irish fire safety laws.
Product recall procedure
If a product has safety issues, the manufacturer must:
- Inform the National Enforcement Body (in Ireland this is the CCPC)
- Remove the product from sale
- Withdraw it from the market by doing a recall
If you have already bought an unsafe product you are entitled to a refund or a replacement. If possible, the company will contact you directly to tell you about the dangerous product. Alternatively, it will put adverts in the national media and display in-store notices to raise awareness about the recall. The CCPC holds details of product recalls.
The European Commission guides manufacturers on how to organise a product recall and provides details of all products recalled throughout the EU on the Safety Gate (also known as RAPEX) website. The rapid alert system covers all products likely to be used by consumers, except for food and medicines. The Safety Gate system ensures rapid communication between Member States allowing them to act fast if dangerous products are found on the market.
Dangerous food and food supplements can be recalled by national food authorities. Details of the alert notifications and product recalls affecting the Irish market are provided by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Dangerous medicines, as well as medical devices and cosmetics, are usually recalled through the Health Products Regulatory Authority and the Department of Health.
What can you do if a product is unsafe?
If you discover that a product is unsafe or looks like it has a fake CE mark you should:
- Always report a safety problem by telling the manufacturer or retailer - it may turn out to be a once off fault
- Contact the CCPC if you have concerns about the safety of any product
- Check the details of the product recall notice (if applicable) carefully and follow the instructions
Who enforces product safety rules?
Different government agencies monitor and regulate the safety of different types of products.
National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI)
The NSAI is Ireland’s official standards body. It develops standards for safety, quality, design, and performance of specific products for sale. Any product that is subject to a standard must meet the minimum requirements that apply. The NSAI is the national certification authority for the CE Marking. It also examines best international practice and represents Ireland in European and International standards and measurement bodies.
Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC)
The CCPC is the national enforcement body (NEB) responsibile for making sure that a wide range of products sold in Ireland meet specific national and EU safety standards. The CCPC has a number of enforcement powers including:
- Investigating complaints about unsafe products
- Working with Customs to stop unsafe products coming into Ireland
- Removing unsafe products from the Irish market
- Prosecuting producers or importers of unsafe products
- Providing a database of product recalls and acting as the Irish contact point for the Europe-wide Rapid Alert System for Dangerous Non-Food Products, known as the Safety Gate or RAPEX.
More information about EU laws on product safety and enforcement is provided by the European Commission.