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Mandatory Standard On Babywalkers Proposed

Think twice before buying babywalkers for Christmas. That's the message from the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Phillida Bunkle, who is proposing the introduction of a mandatory standard to improve the safety of babywalkers.

The Minister is about to release a discussion paper examining the options surrounding babywalkers, and proposing the introduction of the mandatory standard. "A standard would require baby walkers to meet minimum safety requirements," she said. "It could address, for example, problems such as width dimensions and stability, performance on steps, and the supply of information to the buyer on the safe use of babywalkers."

Injury data shows that there may be up to 20 hospitalisations a year from baby walker injuries. The majority of these are caused by falls – mostly falls down steps or stairs. There are also cases of severe burns and scalding where a child has reached hot fluids or hot surfaces while in a walker.

A comparison with other nursery furniture items shows that the likelihood of an injury in a baby walker is relatively high.

"I have considered a number of options to improve babywalker safety, including a ban, education campaigns for parents, and industry self-regulation," said the Minister. "However, I believe a mandatory standard may be the most appropriate and effective option."

"I have seriously considered banning as an option, and this is still up for discussion. However, in my opinion a ban on babywalkers would not take account of the large number of consumers who appear to be successfully and safely using this product. Nor would it take account of the changes in design that the industry has already embraced, and could further adopt to make a safer product. A total ban may target the product unfairly, when it is clear that the safety issues surrounding baby walkers are a mix of product mobility and safe environment."

"I cannot introduce a standard, or even ban a product without sufficient consultation and warning for the public and industry – the law requires me to do this and I believe it is desireable," said the Minister. "In the meantime, I urge parents and grandparents to think twice about buying babywalkers for Christmas, and to clearly understand the risks if they do decide to use them. I would also like to stress that babywalkers should not be over-used or as baby prisons. Babies need to be able to play on the floor and learn to crawl – this helps physical development and especially eye/brain coordination. A playpen provides a safe contained area for this activity.”


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