Testing, Toy Safety and Trading Standards

As a toy manufacturer testing and safety regulations are core to everything we do and Trading Standards have always been there for us to advise on best practice.

When we first set up as a toy wholesaler, way back in time, it was Trading Standards who were the most helpful organisation we consulted. Liz had already been working in the toy industry for 20 years so she had a thorough grasp of toy legislation, but as we created exclusive designs for our toy wholesale business we wanted to ensure that we were doing everything we could to design only the safest of toys.

If you ask a testing house you are offered a barrage of tests but by their very nature tests are designed to check when something has already been made which is great but we wanted something more. Trading Standards look at things from a totally different angle. They think about how something might be used (as opposed to how the toy manufacturer wants it to be used!) and the safety issues which will be associated with its use. They provided pragmatic, practical advise and helped us to root safety procedures in to everything we do.

Back then Trading Standards inspected us annually, visited our premises, looked at our new toys and development ideas and spot checked existing toys. It was obviously a little nerve wracking but also very, very useful.

When the recession came and austerity bit the automatic annual checks stopped but a Trading Standards Officer would call if requested, which we did on a annual basis! Then a charge was introduced which we were happy to pay as they were worth every penny, but finally the cuts went so deep that there was no one available to come out to us. So many people had been culled from Trading Standards there was simply nobody with the time to call. Our contact is now via email and telephone calls which are great but obviously not as thorough.

The trouble is that Trading Standards had imbued in to us the habit of looking at a toy design and saying "what if" but this is probably not available to new toy wholesalers. Who is there to do this for the next new toy manufacturer? And what about all those companies who wholesale toys on an occasional basis and don't have our toy safety knowledge?

You only have to look at the Fidget Spinners to know that people with no idea about toys are happy to buy in to a craze without understanding anything about toy safety. And a quick look at trade newspapers immediately offers 3 safety issues ranging from lead in kids jewellery through to rusty ball bearings in the ubiquitous fidget spinners.

For some reason testing is always portrayed as a negative thing. It is referred to in a derogatory manner as "red tape" but in reality it provides manufacturers with parameters in which to work.Testing and regulations should be viewed as good thing, a secure structure in which to make quality products.

The rise of 3rd party platforms such as EBay and the lack of funding for Trading Standards has opened a door to sub standard toys finding their way in to the UK. So our top tips if you are buying toys are as follows.

1. Avoid bead eyes unless they are on toys from respected toy manufacturers such as Jellycat. They can be a choking hazard so if you are buying from a market place, real or digital, just avoid them!

2. Always check that the toy has a sew in label. This is the white label on the toy showing the address of the manufacturer. It should be marked with CE. If the toy doesn't have a label, or it doesn't have a CE mark then again we would advise choosing another toy.

3. Although its marvellous to be given free toys we would suggest that unless you know who originally made the toy, and how old it is, 2nd hand toys are best left alone. Toy safety regulations have been tightened up in the last few years so toys which were originally approved could no longer be viewed as safe. In particular any of your childhood toys that your mother digs out of the loft/shed should be discarded immediately! Toy safety has come a long way since the 80s.

Best Years Ltd www.bestyears.co.uk




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