A warning for parents

Monday February 18, 2008
baby in cot ( Getty Images)

After testing three products designed for children Choice found multiple failures in safety standards.

Consumer spokesperson Christopher Zinn explains a few of the watchdog's concerns for the safety regulations of children's equipment.

"In our one-year study CHOICE tested three products designed for children and found multiple failures in safety standards," explains Mr Zinn. "Five out of ten cots failed the mandatory standard, Eighteen out of 31 pool fences failed safety standards and four out of eight jogger strollers failed the voluntary Australian standard."

Prams:

"Only July 1 this year mandatory requirements will come into play for pram designs," explains Mr Zinn. "They must have red pedal brakes and a tether strap to stop the pram from rolling away."

There are three main elements to look for when purchasing a pram, these are to check the brakes, harness and wheels, he says.

"The effectiveness of the brakes and their engagement is vital," says Mr Zinn. "Look for rear brakes on both wheels that are foot-operated and linked, so the left and right brakes can be activated by a single lever rather than applied individually."

"There should be a five-point harness consisting of two shoulder straps (attached to the backrest at shoulder level), a waist strap and a crotch strap," he explains. "The waist straps in particular should be securely linked to the stroller's frame, so that the child can't lean out and tilt the stroller."

"It is a good idea to look for front wheels that swivel to make manoeuvring easier, and that can be locked in the forward direction when travelling at higher speeds, over rough terrain or when parking on slopes," suggests Mr Zinn. "Large ones tend to be better on kerbs and stairs; inflatable ones can puncture but generally give a comfier ride."

Never leave your child unattended in a stroller, and if it has a safety strap, put it on your wrist, says Mr Zinn.

"Always engage the brake when the stroller is standing to prevent it from rolling and it use a lift where possible, but if you have to use the stairs, take the baby out of the stroller," he suggests.

Cots:

"Cots have voluntary standards," explains Mr Zinn. "They should be sturdy having all components permanently fixed or require the use of a tool to take apart. They should be deep enough to stop a child falling out and the mattress should fit snugly around all sides."

It is necessary to ensure that there aren't any head entrapment hazards, to avoid the baby's head getting trapped, as well as an space to cause limb or finger entrapment hazards, he says.

It is also important to not have any hazardous protrusions that stick out or up to snag on a child's clothing, and all edges should be blunted, smooth and gently contoured," says Mr Zinn.

"Basically there are a few correct elements to look for when purchasing a cot," he says.

Correct cot check list:

  • Make sure the cot passes all requirements of the Standard.
  • Ensure the cot has teething strips.
  • The cot should have castors with brakes.
  • There should be two slide buttons for drop-side release.
  • Cots should have a five-year warranty.
  • Can be converted into a junior bed.

Pool fencing:

While it is the law in most states and territories to fence a swimming pool, 18 out of the 31 pool fences surveyed failed to meet a key safety aspect of the Australian standard, he says.

"Our results suggest that pool fencing that doesn't meet the standard is likely to be available all over the country and that all pool fences of the same type look much the same, making it impossible to tell visually whether they'd pass or fail the standard," says Mr Zinn.

There were 14 failures out of 16 with the tubular-metal flat-top fences, he reveals.

"In our testing, the overwhelming majority of fences that failed the standard strength and rigidity of openings test had a flat-top design, in which tubular vertical bars are fixed and spot-welded inside flat horizontal upper and lower rails," he explains.

Fences with a loop design, in which tubular sections of pipe are bent through upper rails, mostly passed the testing having only four failures in the 15 loop-top fences tested.

"In most cases we were able to compare a manufacturer's basic flat-top fence with its loop design," he says. "The horizontal top rail sits around 11 centimetres lower on a loop-top than a flat-top fence. This seems to increase the rigidity of the bars and make a fence more likely to pass the standard 'strength and rigidity of openings' test.'

"Pool fences are not a substitute for constant adult supervision," warns Mr Zinn. "Especially given the failures our testing found."

News you can use:

  • Buy new if possible
  • Check for quality materials
  • Beware of protruding parts
  • Avoid gaps that can trap
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