Should Which? publish safety ratings for kids’ products?
Safety is clearly important to parents of young children. We publish safety ratings for child car seats, but should we stretch our safety ratings to other kids’ products, like pushchairs, too?
Last week I watched a busy department store descend into chaos as a toddler escaped from her pushchair while her mother’s back was turned. As the baby left her seat, the pushchair, which had at least three shopping bags over each handle, toppled backwards, hitting the baby and scattering shopping everywhere.
I was full of sympathy for the tearful little girl – surely the responsibility for the accident lay with the parent who’d walked away and left her unattended, unrestrained by the safety harness and in a pushchair that was badly overloaded.
Is safety your first priority?
This kind of accident is all too familiar to parents – a moment of inattention and a child doing something unexpected is all it takes for there to be tears before bedtime. This is why Which? considers whether children’s products are well-designed, well-built and meet the relevant standards for construction and safety when we test them.
Yet, as we prepare to test a load of new baby equipment, one question keeps rearing its ugly head – should Which? publish a safety rating for children’s products?
In our Baby Products survey, we asked parents which factors would be the most important if they were to buy certain products again. They told us that safety was their third most important concern for pushchairs, and their top concern for child car seats and cots.
Clearly, a child car seat is a piece of safety equipment, and the overall safety score we give it is its key performance rating. But for other baby equipment, their primary function is usually convenience, not safety.
All products can be used unsafely if you don’t use them properly – deliberately unbalancing a pushchair by hanging shopping on the handles is an excellent example.
Would a safety rating be helpful?
If we do publish a safety rating, what would the results be based on and what would people take it to mean?
Even if a piece of equipment passes all of the relevant British Standards, it doesn’t mean that it’s completely safe. In most cases it means that this product has been designed and manufactured to avoid the same kinds of hazards that have been shown to cause death or accidents in the past. And, in many cases, it’s impossible to say that a product is actually dangerous just because it fails one specific part of a safety standard.
Our current view is that we should test to the relevant British Standards and point out any failures to the manufacturers and our readers. But what do you think – would a Which? safety rating give you more peace of mind, or a false sense of security? And what would you expect of a kids’ product that had a five, three, or one-star rating for safety?
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