A recent news article in The Telegraph, reporting that the new Toy Safety Directive (TSD) would, among other things, prevent children under eight from blowing up balloons, sparked outrage with the public.
In fact, legislation in place since 1998 stipulates that balloons made of latex must carry a warning, recommending adult supervision, but not forbidding children from blowing them up.
A number of changes have been made by the new TSD, though, which, on the whole, have been welcomed by the toy industry.
The BTHA has supported the changes. Jerry Burnie, toy safety advisor said: “We believe it was beneficial to have a review of the regulations after 20 years to bring together updates in technology and supply chain routes and we obviously support any changes that improve the safety of toys and protect consumers.”
Plush manufacturer, Steiff, which produces its lines to a more stringent safety standard than is legally required, agrees. Ian Munro, director of sales, UK and Ireland, commented: “We fully embrace any legislative changes that happen. I think standards need to be constantly reviewed. If the technology is available, why not keep improving? We value our children enormously, so safety should be of paramount importance.”
Tesco also views the new TSD positively. Category technical manager, toys, nursery and sports, Claire Costello, said: “The introduction of the new toy safety directive has brought some key benefits to the industry. It has provided clarification on the roles and responsibilities of manufacturers, importers and distributors, which will hopefully standardise practices across the industry.”
The new legislation will not come without challenges however.
Malcolm Horner, toy technical consultant at Bureau Veritas Consumer Products Service UK, warned of the difficulties: “The chemical requirements of the new TSD that will come into force on July 20th 2013, might pose a significant challenge to toy companies: the maximum specified limits for many of the existing eight heavy metals will be lowered and an additional nine heavy metals plus Organo Tin and Chromium VI added.”
Horner suggests suppliers start assessing now whether the substances are present in their products. He continued: “Toys that are not meeting the new chemical restrictions won’t be accepted on the EU market from July 2013; therefore, companies may need enough time to re-think their product design or find alternative materials or components.”
Costello also sees the chemical changes as a potential difficulty.
She said: “The real challenge of the TSD, is the new chemical requirements. Companies should start to prepare now, as it’s not going to be an easy ride. As a member of the Toy Retailers Quality Group (TRQG), Tesco will be working closely with our colleagues across the industry to work on a common approach.”
Vivid sees one of the most significant changes as the more detailed ‘technical file’. Development and QA director, Jonny Henton, told ToyNews: “The technical documentation is now more comprehensive and has a much greater focus on both the development phase and the control of production. Knowing and being confident about what is in the products we place on the market is integral to our reputation.
“Although we have actively monitored production for some time, the level of transparency the new TSD demands has required a cultural shift for the vendors and it has been that which has taken the most time.”
The BTHA foresees that the legislative burden, while requiring increased resources for all members, may have a disproportionate impact on small members. As such, the organisation has developed guidance to ‘allow smaller firms to manage their obligations and remain competitive’.
Furthermore, the organisation has warned of those not adhering to the guidelines.