The risk of burn injuries from Halloween costumes
We’ve all seen the news reports that have come out in recent years about the horrific incidents whereby Halloween fancy dress costumes have caught fire and, in some cases, caused life-changing injuries. So how has the law changed as a result of these incidents? And what can parents/guardians do to ensure children are safe from burn injury at Halloween?
What are the fire safety regulations for fancy dress costumes?
Currently, children’s fancy dress costumes are classified as ‘toys’, rather than clothing. This means they do not have the same fire regulatory standards as normal clothing.
What should I look out for when buying fancy dress costumes?
When looking for a costume, you should check they have a CE mark. This means they meet British and EU regulatory standards (EN71-2) for toys, which means:
- They should checked that it cannot stab, mangle, trap or choke the wearer, i.e. no cords can be around the neck or the wrists
- That all fancy dress or disguise clothes and wigs that do catch fire, can be dropped or removed before serious injury occurs
- That limits are set on certain chemicals such as lead, cadmium and mercury. These could be dangerous if swallowed by a child
- That a label must be present on the item stating that the item is not suitable for a child under the age of three
Keep in mind, however, that the EN71-2 test was introduced in 1979 and the materials used for current costumes have become more flammable.
This directive also considers the clothing as a toy. This means that dress-up costumes only offer protection at a burning rate of 3cm per second. On a child, that’s a substantial area.
You should also look out for the British nightwear flammability (BS 5722 test 3) label in children’s clothing.
It may sound obvious, but remember to keep naked flames and sparklers away from children who are wearing fancy dress costumes.
How has the law changed?
In 2015, a Bill allowing for Consumer Protection Rights for the standard of fire resistance of children’s costumes was withdrawn. Its aim was to make provision for standards of fire resistance and relevant labelling requirements for children’s fancy dress costumes.
Despite this, manufacturers have a responsibility to supply safe goods under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (General Safety Requirement).
Further information on burn injuries
If your child has suffered an injury as a result of a fancy dress costume catching alight, you should consider pursuing a claim for personal injury against the manufacturer or business that you bought it from.