Some years ago, a young child was strangled in Lichfield District by becoming caught in a window blind. At the time, Michael Fabricant took the matter up with ministers in the Labour Government. But prompted by a constituent, he has taken this matter up again.
“I am pleased to see that the Coalition are taking this matter seriously and are now taking active steps to try and avoid this happening again. I appreciate that it is difficult to keep a constant eye on toddlers, but this tragedy shows that there are dangers everywhere in the home – not just in the kitchen or on flights of stairs. It is so important for parents, guardians, and carers to try and remain vigilant” says Michael.
Jo Swinson MP, the Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs at the Department of Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) wrote to Michael Fabricant in response to his contacting her on behalf of the constituent. The letter follows (with the reference to the constituent omitted):-
The Government takes the safety of consumers and especially the safety of children very seriously. The UK has the largest market for internal blinds in Europe and BIS officials and stakeholders have played an important role in adapting the European Standard (EN13120), which sets out the performance and safety requirements for internal blinds, and especially the sections dealing with child safety. In defining the performance requirements for internal blinds it is essential to consider their reasonable and foreseeable conditions of use and the potential hazards.
To reduce the risk of strangulation, blinds shall be of an inherently safe design. Product safety information will be provided, in a clear and conspicuous way at the point of sale, on the package, and on the product and in the information for use. There are also requirements for the safety devices intended for retrofitting on the millions of blinds that are currently in homes. We expect the revised standard will be published in early 2013.
I recently addressed a letter to the industry which was distributed by the British Blind and Shutter Association (BBSA) and the British Retail Consortium. We are working to ensure that this mail shot will reach the vast majority in the supply chain (6,500 businesses) within the UK. We have also provided funding to Pembrokeshire Trading Standards for a regional market surveillance project within Wales on the safety of domestic window blinds. The project will target made to measure and ready made blinds of all types, and will assess the safety literature on products and packaging, safety literature displayed in shops, or made verbally by retail staff at the point of sale.
The Department continues to support the "Make it Safe" safety campaign spearheaded by the BBSA, and The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) which to date has sent out over one million safety leaflets to parents, local councils, schools, children’s centres and nurseries, as well as over two hundred thousand cleats and cord shorteners.
The BBSA also recently contacted the 11 Bounty Advisors who are helping to spread the safety message to the 2,500 healthcare and childcare providers they see every month. We have also heard anecdotally of other good work being undertaken by local authorities around the UK. Hertfordshire Trading Standards for example took the initiative to raise awareness by providing residents with Blind Cord Safety packs, handing them out at community events, nurseries, to health visitors and at hospitals. The local fire service also fitted them in homes at the same time as smoke alarms. They also contacted every trader that sells blinds so they can pass on the message to their customers.
Whilst we have no plans to instigate a specific sales ban we believe that the new standard in conjunction with the powers within the existing General Product Safety Regulations 2005, which allow for only safe products to be placed onto the market, will allow Trading Standards to remove unsafe blinds from sale. Given the responsible behaviour of many in the supply chain we believe that recourse to enforcement action will be limited.
As you can see, much is being done to prevent similar deaths and my Department will continue to offer support and encouragement in this important area.