Did you know that all stuffed, soft makes that would appeal to a child whether they are handmade or mass produced have to pass a rigorous list of safety tests before they can be sold to the general public? No? I didn't either, not at the start anyway. It was completely by accident that I stumbled across the EU Toy Safety Directive online around three years ago. I had no idea that to sell a stuffed, soft item in the shape of a cute animal for example, it was classed as a toy and had to meet certain safety criteria and that it was THE LAW! Furthermore it is a criminal offence to sell untested toys, which means that worst case scenario is that you could actually end up in jail! EEK!
I remember thinking that the easiest solution would be to just not make them to sell. I was just starting out anyway and it wasn't that big a deal to just avoid that area. BUT I really like making them!! So I looked further into it and discovered that it's actually not that difficult or particularly expensive to achieve. In fact apart from it being a little time consuming due to the paperwork involved and the need to make 'test subjects' it was easy peasy lemon squeezy!
I discovered that there are two ways of going about it. You can send your product to a professional lab to be tested which of course is quite expensive or you can 'self certify' ie carry out the testing and complete the paperwork yourself at home which is the much cheaper option. A company called Conformance makes the self testing process really easy. You can simply buy a pack from them that has all the information and forms compiled together and you can just follow the instructions. To aid the process even further you can join a fabulous Facebook group called the CE Marked Soft Toy Network - the support and advice provided by this free group has been invaluable to me since I started my business.
I'm really proud that my soft toys meet the legal requirements but not everyone complies with the law. Every day I see illegal soft toys being sold online, particularly on Instagram and Facebook. Some makers simply don't know there's a law, the information isn't very well publicised and it can be quite tricky to filter through to the information that's relevant to you.
Sadly there are makers out there that know very well that there is a law but choose to ignore it, think it doesn't apply to them and continue to sell illegal toys. There are fair organisers that also should be aware as they could be held responsible by Trading Standards if they have illegal sellers at their event. Some makers think that by labelling the item 'not a toy' covers them. I saw a wooden teething ring with a handmade soft toy bunny attached. The bunny was made from acrylic yarn (not suitable for teething) complete with safety eyes (not suitable for teething) and the description stated it wasn't suitable for under 12s! Errrrr.......do over 12s need teething rings then?! It's almost funny if it wasn't so dangerous. An accident waiting to happen. Unfortunately statements such as 'not suitable for under 12s' wouldn't stand up in a court of law.
Another very controversial item is crochet octopuses (pi?) that are given to hospitals to put with premature babies. As the aunty of a premature baby I have no idea why anyone would put this type of strangulation risk in a cot with a baby, premature or otherwise. It's not so much when they're at the hospital as they are very closely monitored, it's when babies go home with their octopus and could be potentially left in a crib with it unattended. People think that because the hospital have given it to them then it must be safe! Many hospitals are in fact banning these items now due to the risks.
Anything that would appeal to a small child would be classed in law as a toy. Even doorstops shaped as animals or even an animal shaped cushion. Lets face it a cute stuffed animal is going to be very appealing to a small child which is why there is a safety law in the first place. I don't really understand why people ignore it. For me it's very simple.....if you don't want to comply with the law, don't sell cute, stuffed, untested toys, don't put children at risk.
There are exceptions to the law. Collectables are exempt however what can be classed as a collectable is a bit of a grey area so in my experience if a maker is claiming they are selling a collectable then they really need to have cleared that with their local Trading Standards confirming that it meets the criteria of a collectable and have it down in black and white. Collectables generally need to be boxed, mounted on plinths and priceed accordingly
As an aside from soft toys please be very careful of handmade dummy clips being sold online particularly beaded ones using crocheted beads or plastic beads. They seem to be very popular at the moment as people like personalised items but unfortunately these style clips are not legal and would not pass safety tests. Please don't buy them and please don't put babies at risk by making and selling them. Imagine if that dummy clip snapped and all those beads rolled around your baby and they choked on one. As a maker you could land yourself in jail if your handmade item injured or killed someone. As I mentioned before not complying with safety regs is a criminal offence! It's really not worth risking yourself or others.
If you're a buyer or a fair organiser hopefully after reading this you are now aware of the law and can check with a maker that their soft toys are legal and safe before buying or allowing them at your fair. Soft toys that comply with the law carry the CE mark on their label and the maker will have paperwork including a certificate of conformity confirming they have done the testing for each item.
If you are a maker selling illegal, potentially unsafe handmade stuffed animals I hope reading this has given you a little useful information to enable you to do the right thing. It's just not worth the risk. If you are aware of the law and still choose not to comply then shame on you. I hope that Trading Standards catches up with you but more than anything I hope you don't injure a child.
Please note with our imminent departure from the EU, it is assumed that toy safety testing will still be required as the UK has always been a leading example as far as product safety is concerned. After all why wouldn’t we want to make our products safe? There has been some information come out now about the changes after we leave so best thing to do is joint the CE Toys Safety group on Facebook as they are extremely helpful.