Halloween is a time of excitement for many of us (adults and children alike). The build up to the big day, and getting our costumes organised to celebrate with family, friends, and other like-minded members of our communities is all part of the fun.
Whilst it is a time of happiness and merriment, we should remain aware of the potential risks that the season can bring with loose, draping, and flowing clothing, and the fact that fire hazards are round every corner (and inside every pumpkin).
Scottish Fire and Rescue make several recommendations for fire safety at Halloween –
“Battery operated candles are the safest way to light up scary things at Halloween. However if you do have naked flames around, make sure pumpkins, candles and other lights are placed well away from anything that can burn. Please don’t put them too close to paths where ‘trick or treaters’ will walk, as their flowing costumes might catch fire.”
They also offer advice on the importance of ensuring children know what to do if their clothing is set alight –
“You can make a game of teaching your children to “Stop, drop, cover and roll” if their costume does catch light. This means having them practice stopping still, dropping to the ground, covering their face with hands, and rolling over and over to put the flames out.”
Preparing children for a worst-case-scenario is important, but there are safety considerations that should be made in relation to the costumes that we are purchasing to ensure that we are keeping our little ones safe.
When purchasing items, we should ensure that the product meets manufacturing and health and safety guidelines. This is also relevant with second-hand products. If the instructions, or ingredients are missing, they may be available through the manufacturer’s websites.
Check for safety / manufacturing marks
Manufacturers of some products have a legal obligation to display appropriate markings to be sold in the UK indicating that a manufacturer has taken all necessary steps to ensure that a product meets specific health, safety, and manufacturing requirements.
This applies to toys, electrical goods, gas appliances, fireworks, and PPE, such as goggles, gloves, and helmets. We should only buy these products if they have the appropriate safety markings on them, as well as the name and address of the manufacturer.
Read and follow safety instructions
It is important that we follow relevant safety guidance, usually outlined on labeling or instructions provided by the manufacturer. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) provide product safety information for consumers on specific types of products.
Potential safety risks – manufacturer’s responsibilities
Any business that imports, distributes, or sells consumer products in the UK is responsible for their safety. The manufacturer has the responsibility to contact all consumers it knows are affected to alert them to the issue and instruct them what to do.
The UK Government supply a list of recalled products, with specific instructions on what consumers should do if they are affected. This is available HERE.
Members of the public choosing to dress up with their children this Halloween should be mindful of the potential safety risks that costumes pose. With bargains available online, in supermarkets and discount stores, questions need to be asked about the quality of the costumes we are buying for our children.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) set out the mandatory regulations that are in place to control the fire performance of the fabrics used in nightwear and toys, including compulsory labelling to make consumers more aware of potential dangers.
The Nightwear (Safety) Regulations 1985, and The Toy Safety Directive 2009/48/EC/ Toy Safety Regulations 2011 set out these mandatory regulations, however the British Retail Consortium (BRC), have worked with the British Standards Technical Committee to approach CEN with a view to reviewing the existing standards in place.
Development of revised European Standards take time, and in the meantime, the BRC (Supported by RoSPA) have introduced two voluntary codes of practice to enhance the safety of children’s dress-up clothing, looking at; additional flammability labeling of children’s dress-up and; methods of testing for the flammability safety of children’s dress up.
These codes of practice highlight the considerations that businesses selling children’s dress-up and Halloween costumes should make to ensure that the products being supplied are of a high quality and comply with their recommendations.
The key messages in relation to children’s dress up clothes and Halloween costumes: ensure that children are protected, and that risks are minimised before they don their superhero masks and princess ensemble.
Halloween Safety – Remember consumeradvice.scot rule of ‘I.M.S.A.F.E’
By following the consumeradvice.scot rule of ‘I.M.S.A.F.E’, parents can ensure that they reduce the risks associated with Halloween.
In – Sight – Remember to keep an eye on children, in the home as well as when out and about. Candles and hanging decorations can be fire hazards, as well as increasing the risk of a trip or fall.
Materials – Check that costume materials are flame-resistant and there is a visible CE Mark. Ill-fitting and loose / draping costumes can catch fire easily. By ensuring the material is flame-resistant and does not flap around, you can minimise the risk of them catching fire.
Shoes – Ensure that shoes are suitably fitting and comfortable – high-heeled and ill-fitting shoes can cause trip hazards, and with more candles about, the fire risk is real.
Accessories and Masks – Make sure that accessories for costumes are safe, with no sharp edges. Masks should fit, and like the materials of the costume, should be flame-resistant.
Face paints / Makeup – Ensure that face paints and makeup are non-toxic. By reading the label we can ensure that we are not putting something on children’s skin that could irritate them or cause lasting damage. Perform a small patch test on the back of the hand to ensure that there are no allergies to the makeup / paint.
Extra Layers – Ensure that children wear clothing underneath the costume. By wearing an extra layer under the costume (such as a woollen jumper or jeans), there will be a barrier between the costume and your child’s skin should the costume catch on fire.
If you would like to report substandard items or for information on any other consumer matter, you can contact consumeradvice.scot on 0808 164 6000. We are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday. You can follow us on social media – Twitter: @advicedotscot and Facebook at www.facebook.com/advice.scot, Instagram: @advice.scot, or get ahead by visiting our knowledge centre at www.consumeradvice.scot
Advice Direct Scotland ‘s Safety and Sustainability campaign is taking place between the 27th of October and 12th of November 2021.
The campaign aims to demonstrate the small changes and considerations Scottish consumers can make to help climate change, whilst saving money, and making our lives a little bit easier. For more information visit the campaign page.