Age classification and toy safety

Toy safety is the practice of ensuring that toys, especially those made for children, are safe, usually through the application of set safety standards. In many countries, commercial toys must be able to pass safety tests in order to be sold. In the U.S., some toys must meet national standards, while other toys may not have to meet a defined safety standard. In countries where standards exist, they exist in order to prevent accidents, but there have still been some high-profile product recalls  after such problems have occurred. The danger is often not due to faulty design; usage and chance both play a role in injury and death incidents as well.

Manufacturers often display information about the intended age of the children who will play with the toy. In the U.S. this label is sometimes mandated by the CPSC, especially for toys which may present a choking hazard for children under three years of age. In most countries the intended age is either shown as a minimum age or as an age range. While one reason for this is the complexity of the toy and how much it will interest or challenge children of different ages, another is to highlight that it may be unsafe for younger children. While a toy might be suitable for children of one age, and thus this is the age recommended on the product, there may be safety hazards associated with use by a lower age group, necessitating a mandatory warning. Some manufacturers also explain the specific dangers next to the advised age. Some accidents occur when babies play with toys intended for older children.

The EU Commission expert group on toy safety regularly publishes a large number of guidance documents intended to help on interpretation issues related to the Toy Safety Directive. Toy manufacturers need stay ahead of regulatory changes and be sure that their products comply with the new requirements.
Therefore, it is vital to perform tests and risk assessments for every product before selling them in the designated market. This is important for every manufacturer as they can be held liable for injuries and fatalities resulting from design flaws, use of unsuitable materials, and substandard production.
The following safety tests are performed:

  • Mechanical/physical testing
  • Flammability testing
  • Electrical safety testing
  • Labeling
  • Chemical testing

Product safety/risk assessment (also known as product hazard analysis) can identify potential hazards and provide solutions early in the product life cycle to prevent products becoming stalled in production or recalled once they are released onto the market. During risk assessments for toys possible hazards and potential exposure are analyzed. Additionally the manufacturing of the toys will be controlled to ensure safety and quality throughout production.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on

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