/ Parenting

What’s all the fuss about recalling Maclaren pushchairs?

Identical twin girls make some funny faces

No doubt Maclaren would rather put its infamous pushchair hinge safety woes behind it – but a safety notice has been re-issued in the US following more injury reports. But how does this affect parents here in the UK?

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) in the United States, there have been an additional 37 reported injuries since November 2009, when the high-profile recall of around a million pushchairs with folding hinge mechanisms was first announced. This has prompted the CPSC to re-issue its original recall notice to US consumers.

So what’s new?

These injury reports – which take the total number of ‘incidents’ involving Maclaren pushchairs in the US to 149 – include five fingertip amputations, 16 lacerations and another 16 cases of fingers getting trapped in the hinge mechanism, which can happen when the pushchairs are being folded or opened.

The recall has been re-issued to remind parents to take action if they haven’t already – but it doesn’t ask for new action, or extend the recall to additional pushchairs.

The warning concerns buggies sold prior to November 2009 – worth being mindful of if you’re thinking of buying a second-hand pushchair – but new Maclaren models you’ll find in the shops now have a different hinge design.

When is a recall not a recall?

Parents with affected Maclaren buggies in the US are being reminded to ‘immediately contact Maclaren USA to receive the free repair kit’, comprised of hinge covers that offer an additional safety measure. So what about parents in the UK?

Like our US counterparts, Maclaren owners this side of the Atlantic have been able to get free repair kits since the issue hit the headlines in 2009, following pressure from us here at Which?

In 2010, Maclaren agreed to pay compensation here to more than 40 individuals with injuries caused by a folding hinge.

But it’s worth noting that a ‘product recall’ in the US is not the same as in the UK. A US product recall alerts people to a potential safety risk, but it does not mean that products should be returned to their manufacturer.

Pushchair safety

The UK Maclaren website homepage links to a ‘Safety update’, which reiterates the message that its hinge cover kits are still available for parents.

There’s no doubt that any report of a child sustaining an injury as a direct result of a product should be taken seriously. Our pushchairs expert Victoria Pearson thinks the risk highlighted by the Maclaren safety alert needs to be taken and applied more widely:

‘The chance that children will trap their fingers in the folding hinge applies to all pushchairs that use a folding mechanism – not just those from Maclaren.

‘Parents should consider the folding hinge on a pushchair in the same way they would the hinge of an opening and closing door. Inevitably a product that folds in this way will carry some risk to children.’

Are you an owner of a Maclaren pushchair, or a pushchair with a similar-style hinge. Do you think Maclaren has taken sufficient action, or should it go further by recalling its pushchairs?

Comments
Admin

I’ve got a Maclaren pushchair – it’s been well used for over two years and is brilliant. I’ve never had any problems with the folding mechanism so can understand Maclaren’s reluctance to blow this up into more than it possibly is over here.

Although, one question I have is – are the models identical in the US and UK? If so, then surely amputations etc could happen over here too? Reading this has made me think I should order some hinge covers though. Has anyone else used these?

Admin

Yes, the affected pushchairs were also available in the UK. There were reported cases over here and in Europe at the time too, but we don’t collect accident data in the same way as the US.

Last year Maclaren agreed to pay compensation out to 40 individuals in the UK for buggy injuries – http://www.which.co.uk/news/2010/05/maclaren-to-pay-compensation-over-buggy-injuries-213750/ – though it hasn’t claimed liability.

I’d definitely suggest getting hold of a hinge cover, Hannah, as it will make folding mechanism on the pushchair safer (and it’s free). You can give them a call on 01327 841320.

Admin

This seems a similar case to the ‘prop stands on Kawasaki motorcycles’ issue of, was it 20 years? ago. A young man was killed when he forgot to put up his stand when riding away; the US court found the maker responsible for not making it impossible to forget. Since the all Kawasakis – but no other – motorcycles have a prop stand that folds up when the clutch is pulled in.

How far should the user expect to have all safety issues so well sorted by the maker that there’s no personal responsibility? I recall buying and using Maclaren folding pushchairs, the best on the market and Which recommended, over 25 years ago. And yes, I did remark the finger-trap issue (noted, too, by Which?, I think), and yes, it is as dangerous as a shutting door. We do expect safety to improve with technology, and today’s pushchairs are a lot better, but accidents will always happen.

If the superbly portable Maclaren system becomes as unwieldy as many other designs by piling on the safety extras, we have to consider how much usability can be reasonably lost to be hyper-safe. In the US, they are looking at five lost fingertips per million Maclaren pushchairs, plus however many copies since the patent ran out. How does this compare to other risks that the same toddlers face whenever mum’s back is turned?

I’d expect Maclaren to keep up with all safety innovations to similar pushchairs and to make their own improvements, too – or be culpable. But in the end, they are safer than, say, a kitchen knife, and it is as much up to mums to look out for their toddlers’ safety as it is the makers’ to keep up on safety improvements.

One extra comment. Primary school in the UK today have unsightly, expensive and shortlived door hinge protectors for just the same reason as pushchairs, but how common are they in homes? Maybe every house, shop, factory and car door in the UK should be fitted with this anti-finger-squashing protection? Or not. It’s an issue of balance.

Admin

It looks to me like Maclaren have acted responsibly in the way that they have handled this problem once they agreed to offer the hinge covers to UK consumers. I am aware of two cases of finger injuries caused by pushchairs among Which customers, one in a Maclaren, one in a Phil&Teds pushchair. Both manufacturers have ‘recalled’ the pushchairs in the US and made hinge covers available for earlier models in the US and UK. They both publicise these problems on their websites.
Any product that has a hinge will carry the inherent risk that you might get a finger caught in the hinge, but I don’t think it is realistic to expect a manufacturer to make a pushchair that can fold down without using hinges in the structure. Hinge covers may be one solution and I think it is important to emphasise this risk in the product’s instructions too. As far as I am aware most pushchair instructions say that you should make sure your child is well clear of the pushchair when you are folding it down and I’d really recommend that parents follow this advice.