This Halloween, childcare and safety experts are warning that regulations for children’s Halloween costumes are still nowhere near stringent enough, and are calling for parents and early years practitioners to be aware of the dangers.
Melanie Pilcher, quality and standards manager at the Pre-school Learning Alliance, said: “The fact is that many of these costumes are not up to the safety standards most parents would expect. Unlike most child’s clothing, they’re considered to be toys and therefore don’t have to meet the same standards when it comes to being flame retardant.
“Nobody wants to spoil the fun at this time of year but we do have some responsibility as childcare providers to bring the issue to public attention, particularly by giving parents advice about what to look for when shopping for costumes and what to do if an accident does occur.”
In October 2014, public awareness was raised after TV presenter, Claudia Winkleman, spoke out about her daughter’s Halloween costume bursting into flames during a bonfire night party. The incident left Ms Winkleman’s daughter with life-threatening injuries and permanent scarring. Despite this negative media attention, there is still no formal legislation in place for manufacturers to make their costumes safer.
Halloween costumes are still regarded as toys under European standards and there is no requirement for them to meet the same safety standards as other items of children’s clothing.
One of the biggest issues with fancy dress costume safety is the issue of flammability. Halloween costumes are a particular risk as they are loose fitting, often with webbing, which can catch alight easily. They are also usually polyester, which is a highly flammable material, at a time of year, which has many activities involving sparks, candles or naked flames.
According to The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), under-fours are the most susceptible to accidents at home. The Pre-School Learning Alliance also warns that the risk to pre-schoolers could be heightened during Halloween due to excited groups of children congregating in different surroundings, near naked flames, whilst parents may not be paying full attention.
The organisation advises keeping children in costume away from flames, and also encourages practitioners and parents to teach common safety methods such as ‘stop, drop and roll’.
According to The Scout Association, there are three easy steps to the ‘stop, drop and roll’ method, which are as follows:
Stop: The fire victim must stop still, ceasing any movement which may fan the flames or hamper those attempting to put the fire out.
Drop: The fire victim must ‘drop’ to the ground, lying down if possible, covering their face with their hands to avoid facial injury.
Roll: The fire victim must roll on the ground repeatedly in order to extinguish the fire by depriving it of oxygen. If the victim is on a rug or one is nearby, they can roll the rug around themselves to further extinguish the flame. If a fire blanket is at hand, that is also a good way to extinguish the fire.