Scary but Safe
In the build up to Halloween, the Fire and Rescue Service and Trading Standards are reminding parents to
• check Halloween costumes for the CE mark,
• always follow instructions and safety information,
• avoid naked flames by replacing candles with LED equivalents, and
• make parents and children aware of what to do if any costume or clothing catches fire – ‘stop, drop and roll’
The safety of children’s costumes, in particular Halloween costumes, came to the attention of the public and gained prominence in 2014 when television presenter Claudia Winkleman’s 8 year old daughter was severely burned after her witch costume caught fire, having been in contact allegedly with or close proximity to a lit candle inside of a pumpkin.
In September 2015 a nationwide investigation into the safety of children’s fancy dress costumes was commissioned.
These costumes currently have to comply with toys safety standards. The standards do not require costumes to be non-flammable, but the rate at which they burn has to be within an acceptable range, and where applicable relevant warnings are present, to minimise the risk.
Results of the 2015 investigation
A program of sampling was co-ordinated and of the 309 samples submitted for testing, 80% passed.
Of those that failed, 14 costumes were too close to the prescribed limit so they were recorded and neither pass nor fail.
47 costumes failed.
10 of these were technical failures due to the absence of warnings.
37 were due to the rate of spread and therefore unacceptable failures.
Trading Standards up and down the UK have been working with suppliers to improve the compliance rate.
An interesting fact to come out of the investigation was that the cost of the outfit had no real bearing on compliance. Therefore cheaper costumes did not result in more failures.
There was also little difference in the failure rate when sampling costumes purchased through UK local or national retailers.
A number of national retailers now voluntarily ensure their costumes meet higher standards contained within the Children’s Nightwear standard.
Advice to parents
In the run up to Halloween, the advice is to avoid naked flames, replace candles with LED equivalents and to make parents and children aware of just what they should do in the event of a costume, or any article of clothing for that matter, catching alight through the Fire and Rescue Service’s advice of ‘stop, drop and roll’.