Thursday, 27 October 2016

Fancy dresses and flaws in flammability requirements

After reading a sign in the local charity shop, I watched this excellent 2015 BBC One investigation piece on textile flammability requirements for children's fancy dresses. It was produced after the daughter of TV presenter Claudia Winkleman was badly injured in 2014 because her fancy Halloween dress got on fire. 

BBC One found that fancy dresses had been classified as children toys and not as children’s clothing for fire safety requirements. Toys have to pass a much less onerous flammability test than children’s clothing. Hence the danger, because fancy dresses are in close proximity to the body and can be very flammable due to the fluffy arrangements of synthetic and thin fabrics.

"Flammable fancy dress clothing", watch it here.

"Flammable fancy dress clothing" by BBC One.

There are three things that I would like to highlight about this case:

1) This safety flaw in the flammability requirements is born from the wrong trade classification of the consumer product, not from a lack of understanding of the fire hazard. Now that this is known, it should be easy to rectify.

2) The response of national retailers in 2015 was overwhelming. The BBC lists the responses of 12 major companies (eg, John Lewis, Mothercare, Toys ‘R’ Us) which revisited the safety of their products. Some of them (Fara Kids, for example, see photo from our local shop below) even stopped selling fancy dresses altogether.

3) The industry response has been towards increasing flammability requirements of fancy dresses and match the higher requirements of children’s nightwear. I say this because there are current pressures asking to downgrade flammability requirements of consumer products (eg, sofas in California).

Photo of the sign in our local charity shop.