Bringing Safe Baby Products to the Marketplace
The clothing a new royal baby wears will affect infant fashion and the imminent arrival of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s first baby will be no different. Clothing manufacturers will rush to bring newly fashionable outfits to the marketplace, but they must ensure these are safe and comply with relevant regulations.
Like a royal wedding, there is always global interest in the arrival of a new royal baby. The world’s media will reflect on the choice of name and study in detail the blankets it is swaddled in, the clothing it wears, and the schools it attends. This will inevitably filter down and affect the choices made by other new parents.
Babies spend most of their time asleep, often unattended. This seemingly benign environment can be deadly to a child. Safety must be the primary consideration when choosing sleepwear and bedding. Very young children may be unable to physically extricate themselves from some dangers, such as suffocation or strangulation by inappropriate bedding. In addition, young children are also capable of unknowingly creating dangers for themselves. Appropriate testing of a product before it reaches the market does not only ensures it complies with relevant regulations, it also makes a safer environment for the child.
Products used every day can present considerable risk to babies and children. Threats include internal asphyxiation (choking), entrapment, hyperthermia (overheating), strangulation, external asphyxiation (suffocation), scalding by flammable materials, and injuries from falling, ingestion of parts of a product, and chemicals. In addition to the hazards that may come from the product, a child may exacerbate the potential for danger as it develops and begins using the product in ways not envisaged during its development.
When developing products, manufacturers need to consider the child’s age, height, weight and abilities, as well as the intended and foreseeable use of the product. The individual behavior of the child cannot, however, be ignored. Children’s behavior can be difficult to predict, especially from the perspective of an adult, and this can make them vulnerable.
In some cases, risks are visible and obvious. For example, when they start walking the risk of falling is greater. What is more difficult to predict, is what will happen when a child’s delight in the world leads it to misuse a product. When this happens, adherence to a standard will help to define a safe product for the child, diminishing the possibility of harm befalling the child. It is therefore vital for manufacturers and suppliers of children’s products to test their products to ensure they are safe.
The Changing Nature of Risk
As young, immobile children spend a significant amount of time asleep, sleepwear and articles intended for use around the cot must be designed to avoid issues regarding breathing. In addition, baby sleeping bags cannot be too warm, as this can provoke hyperthermia if the room is heated or/and the baby is dressed warmly.
As children grow older, they will often wear sleepwear outside of the bedroom and the bed, increasing the chances of the product coming into contact with a flame, for example from a kitchen cooker or open fire. Sleepwear aimed at older children needs to be assessed for flammability.
The potential risk from cords and drawstrings also changes as the child grows. Young children may not know how to manage these and thereby risk entrapment. Older children, however, will know how to deal with cords and drawstrings but they may find themselves caught if the cord is trapped in bus doors or on a bicycle.
Items that come into contact with a child’s skin – clothing, footwear, jewelry, etc. – can also be dangerous. Manufacturers and suppliers must consider the ways in which children may use and misuse a product. These should consider both the obvious risks and those that result from unintended use of the article. An example of an obvious risk might be hazardous chemicals in an object designed to come into contact with the skin. Unintended consequences might include a young child licking a shoe or an older child wearing a shoe without socks or with the tongue folded inside. If the manufacturer has not considered these outcomes in their product development, the child may be at risk of coming into contact with harmful chemicals or they may rub their skin against metal eyelets.
The examples above give a rough indication of the variety of risks that must be considered when developing children’s products. To mitigate against these risks, stakeholders along the supply chain must consider safety at every stage of a product’s development. They must consider not only the obvious but also the ways in which children may misuse a product.
Mitigating against these risks requires deep analysis to identify hazards and find ways to avoid them. Deep analysis should be an integral part of the whole design and production process, with risks being identified and solutions imposed as required. In addition, production must be controlled to ensure only the highest safety standards are maintained.
Babies and children are intrepid and will often find an unintended use for a product. The arrival of another royal child will inevitably alter infant fashion. Companies will wish to take advantage of this by quickly bringing new lines to the marketplace. These products must be tested during development to ensure they are safe for the child and will comply with relevant regulations. Products must be designed with safety as the dominant factor and that means clear objectives in testing and inspection protocols along the whole supply chain.
With a global network of over 40 specialist state-of-the-art laboratories focusing on softline products, SGS offers a comprehensive range of physical, chemical and functional testing services for components, materials and finished products. In addition, we provide inspection and technical consultancy services to our clients, helping them bring safe and compliant products to the marketplace in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
For more information, please contact:
Softline Technical Expert
t: +33 1 41 24 87 10