Setting The Standard On The Safety Of Children's Dress-up

18/10/2017 09:14 BST | Updated 18/10/2017 09:16 BST

Dressing up as a superhero or a monster is one of the great joys of growing up, especially at Halloween. For a parent, there are few things as fun as helping your child transform themselves into their favourite character. Whilst accessories and make-up can take you so far; the most important thing is a great costume.

However, for far too long parents trying to help their children have fun ran the risk of Halloween turning into a true nightmare. Most of us will have heard the awful story about the costume which caught fire and burnt Claudia Winkelman's daughter - quite rightly leading her to campaign for better standards.

This is one of these areas where the complexities of regulation had led to confusion and uncertainty., Dress-up clothes are defined in European Law (Toy Safety Directive) as a "Toy" and the standard for dress-up flammability is called "EN71-2". However, our members don't believe that standard really goes far enough. That was why retailers took the decision to review how to make the children's costumes they sold safer.

What was urgently needed was a new testing standard that could be quickly and easily adopted by all retailers and manufacturers, but without the years of development work required for a review of the existing standard across Europe.

The BRC approached the main UK laboratories on the possibility of a new test, who unanimously agreed to work with us to develop a revised flammability test that could be adopted quickly. The labs knew what the failings were in the existing tests and we agreed to address the potential weaknesses in EN71-2.

Working with UK laboratories, we developed a new flammability test that improves the safety of children's' dress-up costumes sold by our members. There are a number of improvements that elevate it to an industry leading standard, the most significant stipulation is the introduction of the requirement of a maximum burn rate of 10mm/min, which is a 300 per cent improvement over the 30mm/min legal requirement. These more robust protocols, one for testing flammability, the other for improved labelling, have now been adopted by major retailers and manufacturers.

We're proud that this work with our members goes further than the mandatory regulations in putting children's welfare and safety first. Indeed, our work has been recognised by organisations including RoSPA, National Fire Chiefs Council, Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service and the Children's Burns Trust and has been recognised for doing so by important organisations across the country. Our hope is that this will pave the way for further work to ensure higher product safety standards for customers in the future.

Further details of the BRC Codes of Practice can be found on our website.