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Toy safety: new mechanical testing requirements close gaps

from Daniel Marx

The latest edition of the EN 71-1 series of European standards for mechanical testing of toys will come into effect on 28 February 2019. The new standards close regulation gaps and include toys that were introduced to the market in the last couple of years, benefiting both producers and consumers.

When consumers think about toys and safety, the things that usually come to mind are chemical substances. However, this safety hazard often involves quantities and assumptions that are far from the actual contact one will have with these potentially dangerous chemical substances.

Whereas mechanical risks represent a more immediate danger and can, in the case of an accident, have more serious consequences for children that play with such toys. That is why the mechanical testing requirements for toys are regularly reviewed and adjusted, so that tests aimed at new trends and developments can be put into place accordingly.

Mechanical tests according to the EN 71 series of standards are one option in Europe to prove a product’s conformity with the legal basis in toy safety, the Toy Directive 2009/48/EC. The most important part is the EN 71-1 standard, as it defines fundamental requirements that all toys must fulfil. In addition to external features, such as appearance, labelling and proportions, the standard also defines very specific requirements, such as special components, for example springs and hinges, or acoustic properties. Over the years, more and more details and requirements have been accumulated, making the current German edition almost 200 pages long. That is almost five times as long as it was 20 years ago.

The newest edition of the EN 71-1 standard was published in the summer of 2018 and will trigger the so-called presumption of conformity as of 28 February 2019. If a producer applies the standard to their product and if their toys meet the relevant requirements, the producer can assume that these products fulfil the requirements defined in the standard, as required by the the Toy Directive.

Preventing danger to persons

The 2018 edition provides new requirements for not yet regulated or even exempt products. For example, RC helicopters without a ring around the rotors were not yet testable with the EN 71-1 standard. An EC type-examination was instead required to prove conformity. Now testing requirements have been defined that can be applied to determine if a toy fulfils the fundamental safety requirements. If, for example, the rotor blades are rounded appropriately, have a certain elasticity and are tear-proof, the producer can assume that the product is safe according to the Toy Directive.

In addition to these flying toys, so-called projectile toys must also meet new requirements. For example, it is necessary for a producer to think about the possibilities of their projectile toy, such as a crossbow, being used to shoot other, potentially dangerous things not included with the toy. These must not pose a threat to people when fired off.

Costumes on the test bench

Another product group that has recently been categorised as its own category are role-playing toys, especially costumes for Carnival and Halloween. Until now, the examination of strings, ribbons, cords and other attachments has not been regulated. For years there has been a standard for children’s clothing. However, that standard has not been applicable to costumes, because they are classified as children’s toys. This resulted in a different assessment, even though the fact that costumes are used as clothing, or in a very similar fashion, is out of the question. Now, the requirements defined in the EN 14682 standard are to be applied to toys as well and the relevant reference and required definitions were incorporated into the EN 71-1 standard.

Furthermore, several general changes were made that, in part, define requirements more precisely, correct mistakes or add reflections. For example, the section regarding strings and similar parts was not only adjusted in the requirements concerning costumes, but also for play carpets and toys that are hung over cribs and cradles.

If one considers the changes that were made and thinks about the risks that come with the respective product properties, the importance of a product’s conformity with industry standards becomes clear. By regularly making changes to industry standards for toys, especially in the mechanical examination section, more and more requirements are defined with more precision. The fulfilment of these requirements, in the end, leads to making toys safer.


Author of this article:

Daniel Marx, DEKRA

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