Did you know these products don’t have to meet a safety standard? What measure would you like to see put in place to ensure products meet the best safety standards?
Very open ended.
Within what Choice might be capable of or able to influence?
Compiling a public safety data base of the risks and hazards for each category might be a good starting point. Such a data base could reference all known instances of injury, serious injury or fatality. Add to that all findings and recommendations of investigations or enquires. There may be other sources of knowledge or content that can be included. A good guess is the Choice experts carry much of this type of knowledge personally.
A further step might be to systematically update the reference data base. It would also be important to ensure that the content was controlled independent of manufacturers, retailers vested interests. Content would need to be able to be added with minimal delay and based on very simple rules that minimise the potential for blocking of added content.
The core outcome would be to legislate a requirement that all products sold must have undergone a risk assessment against the intended use including but not limited to all the identified hazards and risks as listed in the reference DB. The assessment/s should comply with a recognised QA certification and independent review by a recognised organisation acceptable to the local market place. The assessment should be supported by physical inspection and or testing of the product as designed. It should provide for identification of at risk manufactured defects and ensure adequate control measures are in place through manufacture to final use.
These are general principals described and applied in many aspects of engineering, where the integrity of the design, manufacture, constructibility and safe use/operation all contribute to zero harm outcomes.
The more diverse the product options the more difficult it becomes to rely on application of a specific standard to assure a safe outcome. In practice, the more prescriptive the fewer the solutions. To a point where everyone blindly follows one set of rules and can often fail by not evaluating permitted difference that can introduce new hazards.
The biggest unknown, remains human behaviour. Any item intended for use with a baby remains partly reliant on an adult to understand it’s intended use and how to use it correctly.
The over riding principle in our Australian workplaces. All are looking towards outcomes of ‘zero harm. It seems a useful resource to consider. What are the strategies and policies key to improving their outcomes? It takes more than a truck load of standards to deliver.
Put more directly. We should expect the evidence (legislate) no less from the importers and manufacturers of products used with babies and young children than Choice’s staff who get to inspect and test their products.
Is it time for an emotive social media campaign saying something like:
‘this Government doesn’t appear to care enough to keep your toddler safe from harm’
‘the things you use for your baby might cause their death’??
I personally think that a prescriptive safety standard will stifle innovation. Shouldn’t it be as simple as ensuring that a product is safe when used as recommended by the manufacturer? If a product can’t be used safely, then a real issue exists.
With adult use products, I agree. One would hope that adults have a modicum of common sense and would act rationally and sensibly .
Babies and toddlers on the other hand aren’t yet able to make more than the most basic of basic decisions, so products should be designed with their safety in mind.
As we have seen, in general, we cannot rely on product manufacturers or retailers to uphold safety standards, so it would need to be mandatory.
Q/ The greatest risk in not taking some responsibility and prescribing outcomes?
A/ ‘as recommended by the manufacturer’.
What needs to be prescribed are the outcomes and key test or acceptance criteria.
The ‘how’ in delivering the safe outcomes is where innovation might prove useful.
Our world is full of prescription, including
- minmum heights of the hand rails on balconies and decks,
- minimum strength of hand rails and their end anchor points,
- maximum size of openings in balustrades,
- balustrade designs to resist climbing
A manufacturer can innovate all they like to deliver hand rails and balustrades in many styles and shapes. Providing they meet the standards and building codes!
Should we accept any less of cribs, cots, high chairs, rockets, change tables etc etc etc?
If anything is prescribed it should be performance indicators/criteria, and example would be cots where:
- gaps in bars/openings are less than say a small babies head
- bedding can be secured
- no horizonal bars which are climbable
rather than stipulating what a cot should look like. The concern is that some standards start prescribing what a product looks like and takes away the opportunity for innovation or use innovative materials. Having performance criteria manufacturers can design to meet these. Prescribing outcomes may be a step too far.
Having worked in the development industry, I have been critical of prescriptive codes used within planning schemes. Codes, like standard should stipulate a performance criteria which must be met and it is the developer/manufacture which decides how it can be achieved. Prescriptive codes/standard may drive undesirable outcomes which has happened in planning as developers seek to exploit the gaps.
It appears there is a meeting of minds that standards are necessary, and most safety standards are indeed based on outcomes or parameters derived from experience. Open slather to develop without showing the end product is safe to protect ‘innovation’ is a worrisome argument.
Thanks to everyone for sharing some ideas here, this will be very useful for us. Our current campaign is to create a mandatory safety standard designed to capture a wide range of products, but (unfortunately) there’s still a long way to go before we’re solving all issues with product safety.