Australian Safety Standards for Toys

"Australia, in particular, tends to see two peak selling windows for toys -- Christmas gifting season, but also the catalog season in winter around June/July." -- Steve Reece, CEO of Kids Brand Insight

Toy manufacturing companies that produce toys designed for English-speaking audiences, such as the UK and the United States, already hold a ready-made advantage if they want to consider entering the Australian market. A good example of such an advantage are toys which are voice- and text- interactive.

In addition to the language advantage, Australia's culture, geography, and toy safety standards are also favorable to toy manufacturing companies who focus on the UK and the United States. As Steve Reece points out in the quote above, Australia offers toy manufacturers two distinct peak seasons: summer Christmas and the winter catalog season.

The Australian toy market is only a fraction of some larger national markets (about 1/3 the size of the UK market), but it is not negligible, especially if your product is already close to being compliance-ready. If your product has already endured the rigorous safety standards imposed by the United States and the EU, and you currently share a partnership with a trusted toy safety testing lab, why not take your business down under?

Here we will look at Australia's safety standards for toys, to give you an idea of how close you might already be to making their market.

The 5 Mandatory Standards for Australian Toy Compliance

"Children’s toys in Australia are subject to five mandatory safety standards to reduce the risk of serious injuries and support consumer confidence in the toy industry." -- ACCC Review of Mandatory Safety Standards for Children

Toy safety regulations in Australia are determined and enforced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which oversees products from virtually every industry; for example, clothing, motorized vehicles, food products and machinery tools. They maintain a regularly updated website with features including product safety laws and recall notices.

Toy compliance is divided into five categories, and the majority of Australia’s regulations are harmonized with the international safety standard ISO 8124. While the Australian standards categories and testing expectations are pretty straightforward, one area of potential confusion comes from the fact that their 'mandatory' standards are derived from previously established 'voluntary' standards. The following five standards are required before your product can be legally marketed in Australia.

(Mandatory Safety) Standard #1: Toys for children up to and including 36 months of age

This standard was created to address concerns about choking hazards caused by small parts -- small either by design or as the result of a toy broken under reasonable use and expected wear and tear. This mandatory testing standard derives from sections of the voluntary Australian/New Zealand Standard (AS/NZS) ISO 8124.1: 'Safety Aspects Related to Mechanical and Physical Properties.'

Testing requirements cover:

  • Small parts testing (AS/NZS ISO 8124.1 -- 5.2)
  • Testing for shape and size (5.3)
  • The security of small battery compartments (A2.3)

Examples of toys held to this standard include: rattles, teethers, toy cars, dolls, bath toys, push and pull toys, games and puzzles; as well as "toys for attaching to cots, playpens, prams and strollers." A more comprehensive list can be found on the ACCC's product safety website.

It is important to note that, even if your toy product is labeled and marketed towards children older than 36 months, the toy may still be subject to this standard if it is found to be commonly used by children 36 months or younger.

Standard #2: Children's projectile toys

This standard addresses potential eye injuries, choking hazards and flesh wounds. It also derives its standard from AS/NZS ISO 8124.1.

Testing requirements cover:

  • Small parts (5.2)
  • Kinetic energy of projectiles, bows and arrows (5.15)
  • Torque test (5.24.5)
  • Tension test for protective components (5.24.6.4)

Examples include toy guns, slingshots, bow and arrow sets, and dart guns. Suction cup projectile tips can pose potential choking hazards if the small suction cup breaks off of the projectile shaft through repeated bending and pulling.

Standard #3: Children's toys containing magnets

The ingestion of hazardous magnets has the potential to cause choking and infection. When swallowed in pairs, they can cause severe intestinal blockage and perforation, which can be fatal. The standards regulating this aspect of children’s toys derive from AS/NZS ISO 8124.1.

Testing requirements cover:

  • Drop test (5.24.2)
  • Tip-over test (5.24.3)
  • Torque test (5.24.5)
  • Tension test (5.24.6)
  • Compression test (5.24.7)
  • Determination of magnetic flux index (5.25)
  • Warning statement (C.2.19)

Standard #4: Floatation and aquatic toys

The safety focus for children's floatation devices intended for children up to 14 years of age is on prominent warning labels. Australian safety standards demand that aquatic toy manufacturers make it clear that their product is not a safety device, and that children should never be left unaccompanied while using these products. This standard derives from AS/NZS ISO 8124.1 and the requirement is outlined in section C.2.6 'Aquatic Toy - Labeling'.

All floatation devices and aquatic toys must visibly bear the statement:

"WARNING
AQUATIC TOY
USE ONLY UNDER SUPERVISION"

The warning must be in block capitals, 6mm or more in height, in a color contrasting with the background and indelible.

Standard #5: Lead and other elements in children's toys

Because the nature of play involves sustained contact with toys, including contact with the child’s skin and mouth, this standard addresses the hazards of heavy metal ingestion and absorption through the skin, which can cause both immediate illness and long-term developmental disorders. This standard derives from AS/NZS ISO 8124.3 'Migration of Certain Elements' and AS 8124.7 'Safety of Finger Paints'.

Testing requirements cover:

  • Maximum acceptable element migration from toy materials (AS/NZS ISO 8124.3.4)
  • Limits for migration of certain elements from finger paints (AS 8124.7.4.4)

Note that for finger paints, Australia enforces a lower (that is, stricter) migration limit compared to ISO 8124.7.

Accredited Lab Testing for Safety Assurance

The ACCC understands the importance of accredited lab testing and factory inspection as the best measure against introducing unsafe toy products to the Australian market. Product testing by an accredited lab service versed in all national and international standards, as well as a service attuned to changes within the industry, will ensure that your proposed toy product:

  • Has not been previously banned
  • Is free from defects
  • Meets mandatory safety standards discussed above
  • Meets any claims made about the toy.

Under the ACCC, it is permissible to conduct your own in-house testing, or request safety test data from your suppliers. However, these alternatives to a partnership with an accredited lab service will always leave blind spots in your overall level of safety assurance.

QIMA offers fully accredited lab testing expertise so you are never in the dark about the quality and compliance of your toy and recreational equipment. Our factory inspection experience includes extensive work in Chinese factories, where the majority of toy products are manufactured (68% of toys sold in Australia are imported from China).

If you are successfully marketing your toys in the UK or the United States, where language and regulatory standards are similar, you aren't far away from successfully extending your market to Australia. With 3 in-house labs and a network of preferred partners across the globe, QIMA can help your toy products make it the rest of the way!

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