China Takes Toy Safety Seriously – Interview with SGS’s Toy Business Director in China
As a rule, China’s consumers will find that big domestic brands and toys manufactured for export markets are generally safe. Big brands can afford to invest in rigorous product design, development, production, safety and quality control systems. They benefit from a strong focus on product safety and are subject to strict production controls and regulation.
However, the big brands are only part of our national story. Consumers are becoming more aware of toy safety, and better understand what can hurt our children. At the same time China’s rapidly developing toy industry is dependent on input from toy designers, developers and manufacturers, large and small. Domestic safety regulations are in almost continuous development. Changing standards and an ongoing effort to meet international regulations have made it difficult for small and medium enterprises to keep up and/or invest in testing and verification resources.
Most companies use traditional testing and inspection methods to measure quality and safety. To guarantee safety and quality in the toys of today’s children is more challenging; children’s toys are becoming more sophisticated.
Potential safety risks arise from traditional physical and chemical risks, but now encompass hazards posed by elements including sound, light, electricity, magnetics and radiation. For example, hearing can be damaged if the sound (decibel) level of a toy is too high, and also unqualified LED lights/lighting effects can harm a child’s eyesight. This added complexity puts pressure on all businesses active in the toy sector to keep up with the times and look ahead to future developments.
EU and American standards vary on many elements, but if Chinese manufacturers can comply with international regulation, they should also be able to extend the same levels of safety to the domestic market. Employing third party testing and certification bodies (such as SGS) is not unusual for big businesses operating internationally. To ensure the safety and quality of toys for China’s children smaller enterprises should consider doing likewise.
Safety and quality should be built in to toy design from the outset. Businesses must consider risk from design concept through to manufacture. In the EU for example, the EU toy safety directive that came into effect in 2011 (except chemical requirements applicable from July 20, 2013) includes a mandatory product safety/risk assessment for all toy products. It also places responsibility for product safety with the manufacturer. As a result manufacturers across China have been obliged to update their safety and risk assessment processes. Big brands and retailers will have to follow suit, a move that will benefit both domestic and international trade.
Small can be best
A large proportion of toy manufacturers in the country are first-class. Investment in new products should not be the sole aim of smaller producers. Investment in a product quality and safety control system is vital. China’s small and medium enterprises have one great advantage over the big brands – their flexibility. Business strategies, investment decisions and product development can be matched to the latest market conditions, and cost control can be both more effectively monitored and managed.
In general, the majority of small and medium-sized enterprises face the challenge of meeting safety and quality standards without sufficient in-house understanding of standards and regulations. This often means that quality control systems stagnate once launched, instead of growing and developing with the business.
China’s consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of buying toys that meet national safety and quality regulations. This is the toy industry’s opportunity to embrace change and invest in the future, of both their company and their children.
For more information, please contact:
SGS-CSTC Standards Technical
Services Co., Ltd. Shenzhen
2/F, 5/F, Oastar Building,
Zhongkang Road, Shangmeilin,
Shenzhen, Guangdong 518049, China
t: +86 755 2532 8315
f: +86 755 8318 2846
SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. SGS is recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 70,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,350 offices and laboratories around the world.