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New Safety Standard For Baby Walkers

A new mandatory safety standard for baby walkers is being introduced by the Government tomorrow.

The new standard will require that from 1 March 2002, baby walkers are sold with product information and safety warnings on them. In addition, manufacturers will have to ensure safety features that help prevent them from tipping over or toppling downstairs are included.

The regulations apply to any person involved in the importing, manufacture, distribution or retail of baby walkers and covers both retail and private sales (including second-hand), exchange, lease, hire and hire-purchase of baby walkers.

The Commerce Commission will monitor and enforce the standard. It will be able to carry out proactive inspections and follow up complaints from the public. Retailers, manufacturers and importers who sell non-compliant walkers could be fined up to $100,000. Private individuals could be fined up to $30,000.

“We want to help businesses comply with a law that aims to promote child safety,” Commission Fair Trading Director Deborah Battell said. “The Minister of Consumer Affairs introduced the safety standard after significant research into the product and its associated risks to infants. The Commission has been given the job of enforcing the standard.”

Ms Battell says the Commission will undertake a number of shop inspections to ensure compliance.

“The aim of the visits would be primarily educative, but if breaches of the product safety standard for baby walkers were discovered, then enforcement action would be considered.”

Background

There is no single feature that can be identified as making a baby walker compliant. Design features that have been used to meet the safety outcomes, (ie preventing the product from falling down steps) include:

- recessed wheel mouldings

- rubber friction grips/strips on the base

- rubber grips round corners.

A product that complies with the American standards (ASTM F977) and/or carries a JPMA logo (Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association) would also indicate compliance with our standards.

Product safety standards

The Fair Trading Act gives the Minister of Consumer Affairs power to make product safety standards mandatory. To date, five other product safety standards have been made mandatory under the Act. They are for:

- pedal bicycles

- flammability of children’s night clothes

- toys for children aged up to three years (prohibits toys that can be a choking hazard)

- cigarette lighters, and

- household cots.

Baby Walker Related Injury Data (New Zealand)

From the Ministry of Consumer Affairs discussion document (December 2000) - Investigation into the need for a product safety standard

In the period 1985-1994, 28 children under the age of two years died from infant product related injuries and 647 children under the age of five years were hospitalised. Of the hospitalisations, 94 (14.5 percent) involved baby walkers. Eighty-seven of these related to falls. (Figures provided by Injury Prevention Research Unit, Otago University, 1997.)

These statistics compare with other nursery product-related fatalities and injuries over the same period as follows:

Product Fatalities Hospitalisations

Cots (incl portable cots) 24 134

Prams 2 114

Strollers 0 13

Push chairs 1 92

Walkers 0 94

High chairs 1 77

Bouncinettes 0 48

The full discussion paper can be downloaded from the Ministry of Consumer Affairs website - www.consumer-ministry.govt.nz, under policy (in discussion papers index).


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