Making childs play

According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) there are 2.2 billion children in the world. Approximately 85% of these children live in developing countries and over one billion live in poverty. Children's opportunities to play with toys vary greatly around the world, but it is a basic requirement that toys sold for use by children must be safe and of high quality.

International Standards at work

ISO technical committee ISO/TC 181 is responsible for Safety of toys set ISO 8124. The technical committee has 23 participating member countries, with another 23 as observers. Representation on the committee includes industry, authorities, consumer organisations, and other stakeholders.

ISO 8124 is an important safety Standard used in many regions around the world – including Australia and New Zealand where it is adopted as AS/NZS ISO 8124 Safety of toys.

'International Standards for toys help to ensure toys are as safe as possible and that the test methods for determining their safety are up to date,' says Martin Rushton, Principal Advisor, Measurement and Product Safety Service, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, and a representative on the AS/NZS ISO 8124 technical committee.

ISO 8124 is a living document that is currently available in four parts. Part 1: Safety aspects related to mechanical and physical properties; Part 2: Flammability; Part 3: Migration of certain elements; and Part 4: Swings, slides and similar activity toys for indoor and outdoor family domestic use. The Standard is continually updated to include new toy designs and new potential hazards. The ambition of ISO 8124 is to lay down technical requirements that will minimise potential toy hazards arising from their use in intended play modes (normal use), as well as unintended play modes (reasonably foreseeable abuse).

The fact that various safety Standards and regulations are applied in different parts of the world is a complicating factor for manufacturers that sell toys worldwide, not to mention test-houses, consumers, and authorities. The concept of a single, global toy safety Standard has been discussed on numerous occasions, and continues to be the ideal the market should strive for.

Mr Rushton says, 'In New Zealand and Australia we have made a conscious decision to adopt ISO 8124 and related Standards wherever possible. We sit as participant members on ISO/TC 181 to provide input into the development of toy-related Standards. Beyond that, prior to adopting an international Standard related to toys, the joint AS/NZS technical committee reviews it to ensure it meets the specific safety requirements and needs of New Zealanders and Australians. It's a robust process that has been established to ensure, as much as possible, the safety of our children.'

International information for this article was summarised with permission from the March 2010 issue of ISO Focus+.

(Note – prices subject to change from 1 May 2010)

Published in consumer and occupational safety.