Product safety

Infant playing with a blue ballInjuries from the use of consumer products are common, often serious and sometimes fatal. 

Survey results have shown that most Canadians believe that if a product is available for sale, it is safe or has been tested for safety. But this is not always the case in Canada, particularly for children’s products. In fact, many consumer products, including many children’s products, do not have to meet any standards or regulations. The result is an increasing risk of product-related injuries to children and youth due to their age, cognitive abilities and developmental stage.

What works to prevent product related injuries?

Education

The “3 S" guide.

Size: For smaller children, choose bigger products. Children under three years of age tend to put things in their mouths, up their noses and in their ears. They do not always play with the toy or use a product as it is intended.

  • If a product is small, or can break easily into small parts, a child under three years of age should not play with or use it. If the parts fit in a cardboard toilet paper roll (three cm or 1 ¼ inches), then it is too small for children under three years of age. Toys with warning labels indicating use for children over the age of three, have small parts and are not suitable for children under three years of age.
  • If a product has batteries, ensure the batteries are locked inside and that the child can't easily access them. Small batteries can be swallowed as well as cause burns.
  • If a product has magnets, make sure they are firmly attached to the products. Children have been seriously injured from swallowing small magnets.

Strings: Check that strings or tails on products are not long enough to cause strangulation or choking. Check that they are firmly attached to the product.

Surface: Check that the product is smooth, that it does not have sharp points or rough edges on which a child could scratch or cut themselves. Ensure that soft products are fire resistant and that the stuffing can't come out. The soft stuffing can cause choking.

Engineering

Producers, distributors, retailers and standards developers should have an onus to build safety into the design of products before they reach the market – and to take immediate corrective action when risks are identified with items already for sale.

Suppliers should evaluate products pre-market through a child safety lens. Products and standards should be designed using a precautionary approach that keeps child safety in mind.

Enforcement

On Dec. 15, 2010, Bill C-36:  An Act respecting the safety of consumer products, received Royal Assent and became law. Bill C-36 introduces new safety legislation that suppliers will have to meet, and new tools for Health Canada to better protect the health and safety of Canadians through effective enforcement measures such as mandatory testing and mandatory recalls of dangerous products.

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