Childs play Standards to make childrens toys safer

Issue 20 – September 2010

Recently Standards New Zealand and Standards Australia jointly published Safety of toys – Part 1: Safety aspects related to mechanical and physical properties AS/NZS ISO 8124.1:2010. The Standard:

  • reflects the most up-to-date specifications on acceptable criteria for structural characteristics of toys, such as shape, size, contour, and spacings
  • includes acceptable criteria for properties peculiar to certain categories of toy such as maximum kinetic energy values for non-resilient-tipped projectiles and minimum angles for certain ride-on toys.

The requirements in AS/NZS ISO 8124.1 apply to all toys that are clearly intended for use in play by children under 14 years of age – from baby rattles to dollhouses to building sets.

AS/NZS ISO 8124.1 mirrors the international Standard of the same name (ISO 8124-1:2009). New Zealand is one of 22 participating countries on the international technical committee (TC 181) that looks after toy Standard development.

TC 181 New Zealand representative Martin Rushton, Principal Advisor, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, says toy Standards are a product area where countries see through the same lens.

'Working on toy safety Standards is quite encouraging. Because all countries – from affluent to developing nations – seem to understand the vulnerability of children and are quite committed to working on ways to keep their children safe.'

TC 181 includes experts from various fields – scientists to engineers to paediatricians to retailers to consumer advocates – to ensure that toy safety is considered from every angle. The committee also uses the most current data available (for example, statistics on toy-related injuries from around the world) to inform Standards development.

Rushton says, 'toys are big business so it's critical we have global alignment on safety issues. International Standards have allowed us to move in that direction'.

While international Standards go through a robust process, AS/NZS ISO 8124.1 has gone through an additional review by the joint Australian/New Zealand technical committee CS-018 'Safety of Children's Toys'. This step was taken to ensure that the international Standard would be completely appropriate for New Zealand and Australian consumers. Once a Standard has been reviewed and approved through this process it receives the AS/NZS ISO label.

'There may be instances when adjustments need to be made to an international Standard to best meet the needs of New Zealanders,' Rushton says, 'but that hasn't been an issue with the Safety of toys 8124 series. One of the reasons for this is that New Zealand is represented on TC 181 and is able to feed into the Standard development process at an international level. It also helps that when it comes to toys we all seem to be in agreement – keeping our children safe is a top priority.'

That commitment to child safety means that TC 181 never rests on its laurels. In fact, work is already underway to develop amendments to ISO 8124-1 to both cover emerging issues and to improve existing sections of the Standard, for example sections on projectiles and cords.

TC 181 working groups are also developing three new parts in the 8124 series:

  • total concentration of certain elements in toy materials
  • determination of phthalate plasticisers in plasticised material
  • fingerpaints.

TC 181 is next scheduled to meet in November 2010 in Melbourne, Australia.

Related Standards

Related Touchstone article

Published in consumer and occupational safety.