While most consumer goods we buy are likely to be physically safe, unsafe products can cause injury, financial costs and even fatalities. Harm to health and safety can be visible, such as an estimated 3,000 UK house fires caused by faulty appliances and nearly 5,000 admissions to hospital with injuries from fireworks each year. But harm can be less obvious, such as toxic or carcinogenic chemicals in cosmetics.
There are no data available on the overall scale of harm caused by consumer products or how this has changed over time but locally examples include toys containing carcinogenic chemicals, toys that would pose a choking hazard due to lose or detachable small parts, high chairs and play tents that pose a strangulation risk, folding chairs which pose a finger trap risk and unsafe chargers which could pose a fire risk.
Whilst the Office of Product Safety and Standards is the policy lead for product safety in the UK, Trading Standards has local enforcement responsibilities when it comes to the sale or supply of unsafe consumer goods in their area. We welcome information from consumers about any products they have safety concerns about.
Please visit our Report an Issue to Trading Standards webpage to find out how to share this information with us.
- product-recalls-and-alerts (GOV.UK website)
- check the safety of an electrical product (Electrical Safety First website)
- product recalls (Chartered Trading Standards Institute website)
Motorcycle clothing safety
Motorcyclists are of course heavily dependant on their leather gear, gloves and helmet to keep them safe in a fall or slide, but there are many products for sale on the British market that wouldn't meet our British safety standards and would fail to offer you the protection you were expecting in the case of an accident.
View our 'Motorcycle clothing buyers guide' to help you identify the products you can trust, and those to steer away from.
Blind cord safety
Research suggests that at least 35 young children across the UK have died because of looped cords on blinds since 2001 as a result of strangulation. looped cords can be deadly if they get them caught around their neck.
Research by RoSPA has shown that most accidental deaths involving blind cords happen in the bedroom and occur in children aged between 16 months and 36 months, with the majority (more than half) happening at around 23 months.
Toddlers' heads weigh proportionately more than their bodies and their muscular control is not yet fully developed, which makes them less likely to be able to free themselves. Their windpipes are smaller and less rigid than those of adults and older children which mean that they suffocate far more quickly if their necks are constricted.
These deaths can happen quickly and quietly, however with increased awareness these deaths are preventable. Trading Standards urge residents and businesses to check their premises for existing blinds and if you have blinds with looped cords, we recommend that you remove them or, if you cannot do this, you tie up the cords with a safety device.
For more information on preventing accidents involving looped cords please visit the RoSPA website.
Nappy sack safety
In the UK there have been at least 10 deaths of babies under one year old caused by choking and suffocation hazards associated with nappy sacks.
Nappy sacks are often stored near a baby and/or the baby's cot. The flimsy plastic material of the bag makes it light enough for the baby to grasp and move. A baby of this age will instinctively bring it to its mouth where the bag can easily obstruct the airways or can be inhaled.
Unfortunately babies lack the ability or instinct to remove the bag.
Liquitabs are detergents that have a jelly-like sweet appeal to young children. The alkaline substances in liquitabs can cause an immediate chemical burn.
If bitten and/or swallowed the child may suffer breathing problems as the airway starts to swell rapidly. Doctors have also seen cases where young children have burnt their eyes having rubbed them after handling liquitabs.
For further information visit the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
Button cell battery safety
Button cell batteries due to their size pose a choking risk to small children, who have a tendency to place small parts into their mouths. The lithium in the batteries reacts with saliva causing acid to leak within as little as an hour. The leaking acid can cause severe burns and damage to a throat, stomach and other internal organs, or even death.
These batteries can be found in everyday small household electronics such as remote controls, greeting cards, novelty items and toys. Make sure spare batteries are securely stored and battery compartments are secured before placing an item within a young child's reach.
Read further information about Button Battery Safety on the Child Accident Prevention Trust website.
Laser pointer safety tips
It is recognised that lasers can cause damage to the eyes, and they can indirectly be hazardous in many ways. These important safety tips will assist consumers be safe when using laser pointers.
Only buy a laser pointer if you have a legitimate use for it
Laser pointers are not toys. Don’t buy them for children. If you want to buy one, buy it from a reputable UK supplier. If you buy one over the internet, particularly from overseas, you may be buying a very dangerous laser product.
Tip 2: Don't Use Laser Pointers Without Labels
If the label indicating the wavelengths and wattage has been peeled off or a laser pointer never had one, the best decision is to dispose of the device to avoid any accidents.
Tip 3: Don't Point Laser Beams at Faces or Eyes
Laser beams can damage the retina of the eye and the damage is permanent.
Tip 4: Don't Point Laser Beams at Aircraft
This may seem like an obvious thing not to do, but it happens both intentionally and accidentally. People have been prosecuted for shining laser beams into the eyes of pilots.
Tip 5: Don't Point Laser Beams at Vehicles
Because the beams from laser pointers can cause dazzle, distraction, and temporary blindness, as well as potentially causing permanent eye injuries.
Tip 6: Don't Hold a Laser Beam on the Skin
Some of the laser pointers available on the internet can cause skin burns. Don’t shine the laser beam onto the skin.
Tip 7: Don't Point Lasers at Animals for Any Reason
Some people like to play games with their animals by getting them to chase the laser beam. Do not use a laser pointer to scare animals or birds.
Tip 8: Don't Give Laser Pointers to Children
Laser pointers are not toys. Older children may be trusted with lower powered laser pointers if they are mature enough to understand what they can and cannot be used for.
Small high-powered magnets are increasingly becoming popular but due to their size pose a very serious risk to small children. Small, high-powered magnetics can be easily swallowed and, when ingested, have the potential to cause serious internal injuries within the gastrointestinal tract. If two or more magnets were swallowed the magnets could be drawn together in the digestive system potentially causing serious injury or death. The bright colours make them child appealing but they can have potentially devastating consequences.
Baby self-feeding pillows safety
Self-feeding pillows/prop feeders present a risk of serious harm or death from choking or aspiration pneumonia. Baby self-feeding pillow products are designed to be attached to a bottle so that the baby may be positioned on its back to self-feed without the assistance of a caregiver holding the bottle and controlling the feed. When used as intended, even whilst under the supervision of a caregiver, it could lead to immediate, serious harm or death from choking or aspiration pneumonia. Consumers should immediately stop using these products and dispose of them safely.
Businesses have been asked to recall these products. If you see such a product being advertised for sale please contact us using the details on our Report an issue to Trading Standards page.
For further details of the product recall, please visit Product Safety Alert: Baby Self-Feeding Pillows / Prop Feeders (PSA3) (GOV.UK website).
Angle grinders with tooth blade attachments
The Office of Product Safety and Standards has issued a warning to consumers not to use toothed saw blades with angle grinders. The Office for Product Safety and Standards has identified that toothed saw blade attachments, available for sale for use with angle grinders, are unsafe. These attachments increase the risk of kick back and loss of control of the angle grinder when in use, which could lead to serious injury or fatality. Kick back is caused when the blade snags or strikes an object during operation causing the tool to be suddenly forced backwards towards the operator. Consumers and users should only use attachment types on angle grinders that are recommended by the angle grinder manufacturer, and should always follow the instructions provided.
If you were sold a toothed saw blade specifically for use with an angle grinder you should contact the seller for redress. You are encouraged to report any such businesses to us using the contact details on our Report an issue to Trading Standards page.
For further details, please visit Product Safety Alert: Angle Grinder Toothed Saw Blade Attachments (PSA5) - GOV.UK website.