How to Produce and Source Safe Toys?

Date: August 9, 2015

How to Produce and Source Safe Toys?

 Advice for Toy Manufacturing and Sourcing

There are millions of toys out there, with new toys being produced every day. Toys are a very important part of childhood and assist with development, education, and entertainment. But little does one know that, with the numerous toys currently on the market, many pose a threat to children’s safety. Indeed, there are many children who are treated daily for toy related health issues. For this reason, the United States and Europe have safety standards intended to offer guidance to the toy industry. Requirements in the U.S. and Europe may differ but the ultimate aim is the same: to make sure that only safe toys are on the market and that fewer children are affected by faulty toys.

In Europe, toy recalls have increased by 58% since 2012. Indeed, this fact alone is ominous. Some may argue that the reason is the relatively stringent EU Toy Safety Directive (2009/48/EC) which sets certain toy safety standards that all toy manufacturers within Europe need to adhere to. Familiarizing oneself with these laws can save businesses from having to deal with future issues relating to recalls, etc. Some of the major issues highlighted within the EU Directive (whereby toys may fail to meet the necessary standards) include:

  • Choking hazards
  • Strangulation
  • Sharp Edges
  • Flammability

Some of the most common violations include the presence of small parts and excessive levels of phthalates.

The U.S. also has standards for toys, which fall within the remit of the jurisdiction of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In the U.S. the most common failures and recalls relate to toys that posed ingestion hazards. Some other hazards in the U.S. include:

  • Fall
  • Fire and Burn
  • Aspiration and choking from small parts
  • Entrapment
  • Lead Paint

Each toy or children's product that comes into the U.S. goes through a mandatory testing process by a third party. The U.S. has charged up its efforts in recent years to create a more comprehensive, all-encompassing toy safety system and to put structured procedures in place. This includes its establishment of testing laboratories throughout the world.

Europe and the United States have evinced their determination to uphold the safety standards of toys and other children’s products. Anyone buying or selling toys, especially in bulk, should be familiar with the laws surrounding these toys. Moreover, it is important to know that almost 85 percent of the toys that one may come across on shelves comes from China. Given that the toy manufacturing industry is currently dominated by China, this means that many of the manufacturing issues, design issues and the problems with less stringent safety guidelines all revolve around China.

There are steps one can take to steer clear of many of the problems which are common to the toy industry. For instance, it is always advisable to look up the toy manufacturer in question. Toy factories, as is the case within any other industry, need to build up their reputations. Similarly, anyone involved in toy sourcing can consult the ‘Better Business Bureau’, which provides free business reviews, or a plethora of other online avenues which also offer relevant guidance. Such avenues also enable one to see if that specific toy manufacturer has been involved in recalls and to see what others have to say about the toy manufacturer’s products.

Another important thing to look for is the applicable labeling requirements on all products. Make sure that all labels have specific information relating to the toy, including the country of origin and any potentially relevant hazardous warnings, etc. In addition, never hesitate to reach out to the supplier and to get assurance that the toy supplier is following the applicable safety procedures. In particular, ask the supplier if it is complying with the safety standards in Europe and the U.S., as these are the most stringent toy safety rules, thereby setting a universal threshold which, once met, is more likely to satisfy the local toy safety laws in other countries. Whether you are an individual toy buyer or whether you buy in bulk for resale, knowledge of the entire process will save you a great deal of time worrying about this in the future.

The toy manufacturers in China are often reputed to be particularly prone to falling foul of global toy safety standards. Indeed, they would do well to heed such guidelines if they are anxious about the longevity and reputation of their businesses, especially given the increasingly ethically-conscious buyer-market. Since the scandal relating to Mattel’s toy problems in 2007, Chinese manufacturers have been flagged up for their allegedly shoddy standards and loose adherence to manufacturing guidelines. For manufacturers both in China and across the globe, they need to pay particular attention to two different kinds of product liability. One is product-related design flaws, i.e. ones that are inherent in the product design. The other is known as a manufacturing defect, which is often utilized as a means of limiting a company’s liability to merely a percentage of its products which manifest such defects.

Overall, whether the toy product liability involves a design flaw or a manufacturing defect, toy manufacturers must keep in mind that they are ultimately responsible for checking the materials used, the conditions of the production chain, the examinations and investigations that may be necessary to identify potential toxins and hazards, and the practices adopted by their workers, etc.

Indeed, one cannot deny that toys play a fundamental role in a child’s social and mental development. Thus, both those involved in sourcing and manufacturing toys should keep the children at the forefront of their minds: nobody wants to pass on a hazardous toy to such vulnerable members of society. Given the expansive range of resources provided in this day and age and the suite of tools that can be used to ensure toy safety, endowing children with a risk-free toy experience should be easier nowadays. 

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