Spielwarenmesse: Water toy and swimming aid safety

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Sicherheit bei Wasserspielzeug
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Water toy and swimming aid safety

from Rainer Weiskirchen

On hot, sunny days crowds flock to the beaches and lake shores. Children in particular love splashing around in the water all day to cool down. But rescue services in Germany fear that the number of fatal bathing accidents will increase in the future. Reason enough to take a look at the safety of water toys and swimming aids. 

Water toy safety

Water toys for children

Firstly, when it comes to standards, water toys are regarded as toys. Whether inflatable or non-inflatable, they are designed for use in shallow water and are suitable for carrying or keeping a child afloat on water.

Water toys for kids to ride on such as dolphins, crocodiles or the currently popular unicorns and flamingos, are also considered toys, regardless of size. However, if they are larger than 1.20 m - before inflation - special safety requirements apply. The reason being that water toys over 1.20 m, are classified as susceptible to wind drift, which means there is a risk of drifting into deep water. Such products must meet the relevant requirements of two standards, EN 71-1 (Safety of toys) and EN 15649 (Floating leisure articles for use on and in water), and must be labelled accordingly.

Nevertheless, these toys do not offer any protection against drowning. Water toys and their packaging must therefore come with the following warning: "Warning. Use only in shallow water under adult supervision". The warning is to be clearly and indelibly affixed to the toy in a contrasting colour. The letters, for example, should be at least 3 mm high and labels on inflatable water toys should not be more than 100 mm from any of the air intakes. Advertising brochures or illustrations should not give the impression that the child is safe when left unattended in the water with this toy.

Water toys with leg openings such as rubber boats or cars are not permitted. These can pose a real danger to inexperienced small children and are therefore prohibited.

Swimming aids safety

Swimming aids that are attached to the body are considered to be so-called personal protective equipment and must comply with the relevant test standards for such products. Alongside the classic orange-coloured water wings or floaties, swimming aids are now available in the form of inflatable tubes and rings, life jackets, belts and much more. These products can be recognised by the test standard EN 13138-1, which must also be printed clearly visible on the packaging and the product. In addition, the GS symbol also gives the consumer reassurance when deciding which product to buy. In Germany, the GS mark symbolizes “tested for safety” (Geprüfte Sicherheit) and is awarded by independent testing organisations such as the German TÜV Rhineland. Among other things, it guarantees that safety aspects have been checked, that the limits for harmful substances are complied with and, for example, that the inflation valves have non-return caps. These valves prevent the air from escaping all at once if they are unintentionally opened. Tested swimming aids also have a dual air chamber system. If one chamber is defective, the second keeps the non-swimmer above water.

When used correctly, tested swimming aids have a long service life. Their safety should therefore not be impaired by UV rays, chlorine or salt water, for example.

Even if the products are of a high quality and have been tested to high standards, the following rule generally applies: Children should never be left unattended, even if they have a swimming aid or water toys, not even if they are just splashing around in shallow water.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Spielwarenmesse eG.

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Author of this article:

Rainer Weiskirchen, TÜV Rheinland

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