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Christmas is coming: Who’s on the naughty list?

At a glance

  • As 2019 draws to a close and thoughts turn to Christmas shopping and the season’s must-have toys, we take a look at what toys could be considered dangerous this winter.

In 2017 it was fidget spinners. In 2018 it was squeezable toys. As 2019 draws to a close and thoughts turn to Christmas shopping and the season’s must-have toys, it is a timely opportunity to look forward and try to which toys the European Commission may be calling out as the new emerging trend in dangerous products alerts in their next annual RAPEX report.

Based on Zurich’s analysis of the EC Safety Gate database, there are three standout candidates for the dangerous products trend of 2019:

Toy slime

Emerging as an apparent internet fad in 2017, before becoming a big seller in 2018, toy slime started giving rise to product safety concerns remarkably quickly. As early as July 2018 alarms were sounding about levels of boron in some toy slime products exceeding EU standards. 18 months later the number of alerts has rocketed to over three times the 2018 level and it is still the presence of dangerously high boron levels that is responsible for virtually all alerts relating to these toys. The risk may be exacerbated in some products where packaging design could create a risk of the product being mistaken for food.

Hoverboards / self-balancing scooters.

Like slime, concerns about defects in hoverboards or self-balancing scooters is nothing new, but this is the first year that we’ve seen these products appearing in the data in any real volume. Four years after the first reports of these products catching fire, this is still an all too frequent cause for concern. The frequent failure to include cut-off protection in charging circuits, leading to a risk of overheating and ignition, is by far the most common source of alerts relating to hoverboards, but we do also see additional risks of electric shock caused by poor insulation against water ingress.

Soft toys

Perhaps the most traditional of all toys, the hazards associated with badly designed or made soft toys are also nothing new. What is novel, however, is the number of alerts seen in 2019 – more than double the number seen in the preceding years. The most common hazard is the risk of choking caused by parts of the toy (such as eyes) becoming detached.

Apart from these emerging trends in the data it is notable that the 2018 RAPEX report’s emerging risk of the year – squeezable toys – hasn’t gone away in 2019. If anything the number of alerts reported this year shows a slight increase. Like soft toys the main risk remains choking hazards from small parts becoming detached, but also chemical risks from potentially hazardous substances in the production materials used.

Indeed, it is significant that, despite some reduction in 2019, the general long-term trend in the data is for an increasing number of alerts relating to toys. Whether this is cause for alarm, or evidence of improving detection of hazardous goods is a debatable point. What is not arguable is that organisations at all stages in the production chain need to remain vigilant as to the risks of defective products – both to address the obvious health risks to the consumers who may use them, and to mitigate the financial and reputational risks to the companies that supply them.

Rod Carver, Zurich Senior Liability Risk Consultant commented “the two most important elements in managing product safety risk are supply chain management and product recall planning. Effective management of your supply chain ensures that you are getting the ingredients, components or products you ordered, and that they are being supplied to the right levels of quality and compliance with product safety laws and standards. In the event that something does go wrong, ensuring you have good levels of traceability and an effective recall plan will allow you to act quickly, involve the right people and  minimise the impact of any potential safety issues.”

To support our customers in dealing with these risks our Zurich Risk Advisor (ZRA) digital platform is available for Apple and Android devices and can be download for free from the relevant app store. ZRA’s ‘What if’ tool allows customers to easily see how Zurich’s Risk Engineers assess product liability risk and identify risk improvement ideas and external resources to help them manage risk more effectively.

For more information, please speak to your local Zurich contact.

Image © Getty

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