I've been doing a lot of research lately into issues of toy safety and the legal responsibilities of toy makers. A lot of the information I found was overwhelming, or slightly confusing and contradictory.
So here is a summary of everything I found, along with useful links. I hope it can be of use to other crafters as a springboard for your own research. This information is relevant to people selling handcrafted toys in the UK and Europe only. Also, I have only included information that relates to plush/soft toy making. The following has been put together using various online sources (links at the end) and information provided by my local Trading Standards Office.
DISCLAIMER: This information is for your guidance only. I am not a legal expert. Please contact your local Trading Standards Office for guidance.
First, a little cold hard reality:
If you sell toys that are incorrectly marked or unsafe, you will be breaking the law and may be prosecuted. You could be fined up to £5000 and imprisoned for up to six months.
Is the item you make a "toy"?
A toy is defined as any product or material which is designed or clearly intended for use in play by children under the age of 14. Decorative or folk dolls intended for adult collectors are not considered "toys" and don't have to fulfill these requirements. However, they need to be clearly labeled "This is not a toy", or "Intended for adult collectors only".
The Standards dealing with toy safety are known collectively in Great Britain as BS EN71 (parts 1-8). Below, I've outlined those sections that I believe are relevant to plush making. Please contact your local Trading Standards Office for more information.
EN71 Part 1 - Physical and Mechanical Properties
- Must be sufficiently strong to withstand the stresses normally subjected to during use.
- Be designed and constructed so that any accessible edges, protrusions, cords, fastenings or movable parts do not inflict injury.
- Toys and component parts intended for use by children under 36 months shall be of such dimensions to prevent their being swallowed or inhaled.
- Toys and their packaging must not present a strangulation or suffocation risk.
EN71 Part 2 - Flammability
Toys to be composed of materials which are not readily flammable and inhibit the spread of flames.
EN71 Part 5 - Hygiene
All toys must meet hygiene and cleanliness requirements to prevent the risk of infection, sickness and contamination.
All toys supplied in the UK must meet the essential safety requirements set out in the toy regulations and carry a "CE" mark which is the maker’s declaration that the toy satisfies the essential safety requirements.
The CE marking is not a safety or quality mark aimed at consumers. Its purpose is to indicate to enforcement authorities that the toys bearing it are intended for sale in the EC and signifies a declaration by the manufacturer that the toys satisfy the essential safety requirements applicable to them and are entitled to access to Community markets.
The Regulations specify the form of the "CE" symbol, which must be at least 5mm in height and must be easily legible and permanent.
Toys must also carry the name and address of the manufacturer in the EU. (That's your name and address).
If the toy is small the CE mark, name and address may appear on a removable label attached to the toy. The label should also state "You are advised to retain this information for future reference".
Where necessary, toys must be accompanied by clear legible information and warnings to reduce any inherent risks, particularly in relation to:
- Toys dangerous to children under 36 months. These must bear a warning "Not suitable for children under 36 months" or similar, together with a brief instruction of the risk e.g. "small parts".
- Need for supervision.
You will need to keep a technical file with information on your product and your suppliers. You will need to include:
- A description of your manufacturing process.
- An explanation of how the toy meets EN71.
- Details of any tests that you (or a third party) have carried out on the toy, with results obtained.
- A list of all suppliers of materials and components, including their names and addresses.
- All documentation you have that your materials and components comply with the requirements.
- The address where the toys are made.
Those who make toys should also be aware of the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 which makes the producer of goods liable for any damage or personal injury caused by unsafe goods.
Useful Links and Further Information:
Toymakers Guild Publications. They publish a very useful booklet titled "A Guide to Toy Safety" It's £2.50 and worth every penny, not only does it provide information, but also a gentle voice of calm and reassurance.
Trading Standards Central. Business Guidance leaflet from the Trading Standards Institute.
BERR: Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. Toy Safety Quick Facts.
Cloth Doll Creations. An ultra informative page of this great site. Madeleine Sara Maddocks is a Devon based cloth doll artist, her site is full of information, supplies and patterns, she also has the most user-friendly page of information regarding toy safety that I found during my research.
Flammable Toys. Swedish Market Survey of flammable toys. Interesting reading regarding rag dolls.
Woven Labels UK. I've blogged about this company before, I have no affiliation with them I just think that they offer a great service and good quality labels. They supply industry standard Toy Safety Labels, bearing the CE mark and personalized with your business info.