As you would expect, toys have become one of the most heavily regulated product sectors with new legislation being introduced every year.

The Association informs members of changes to existing legislation governing toy safety as well as informing them of new legislation.

The primary regulations derive from the European Toy Safety Directive: Details of the Directive can be found on EU and UK government websites. In general terms it seeks to ensure the mechanical, physical, electro-magnetic and chemical safety (including flammability and toxicity), and safety labelling of toys (for example with regard to age suitability and supervision requirements) for safe toys.

Enforcement in the United Kingdom is the responsibility of the unitary or county council. Many have a Trading Standards Department and a few have test laboratories. Others now contract out this service to other authorities or private providers who work closely with the industry to ensure safety and rapid communication of any perceived problems.

Background to toy safety regulations in the UK

The EU toy safety directive was adopted by the British government in July 1989 and the Toys (Safety) Regulations came into force on 1st January 1990.

The directive ensures the free circulation of toys throughout the EU and all toys are required to bear a CE Mark, together with the name and address of the first supplier in the EU. A new toy safety directive (2009/48/EC) will come into effect in the EU on 20th July 2011 which contains new requirements for toy manufacturers and importers including those related to the technical information available for inspection by the authorities which manufacturers must prepare and retain.

The regulations require toys to be designed and made so that they comply with safety requirements. Toy manufacturers, and marketing companies are required to know about the safety of their products and keep records which describe the steps they take to ensure that the toys comply.

Toy retailers are required to ensure that the toys on sale are labelled in accordance with the regulations. While there is no specific requirement for retailers to check independently that toys comply with the specific safety requirements, some retailers do this by getting assurances from their suppliers that the information required is available. Often retailers request independent certificates to show that the products they are buying are safe although there is no legal requirement to do so.

If a retailer imports a toy product directly or markets a toy under its own brand, then it is also responsible for the safety of the product and maintaining the technical data.

Toys have a good safety record and this is supported by a look at the UK accident statistics. Only a small percentage of all home accidents involve toys, and even in these rare instances the toy is usually not the cause of the accident.