30th October 2019

CTSI calls for seasonal safety

With trading standards services stretched, the CTSI is urging the public to be aware of the dangers posed by unsafe products and practices at Halloween and on Bonfire Night.


By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
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Frontline trading standards services within local government are chronically underfunded and so we need the public to be sensible and make safety their number one priority this Halloween and Bonfire Night

For children and adults alike, Halloween and Bonfire Night are two of the most anticipated family celebrations in the darker months of autumn. It is all too easy for safety to take a back seat in the excitement. But would you risk your child’s safety for the sake of a few quid?

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) calls on the public to be sensible and not cut corners during these celebrations. When choosing costumes for children, setting off fireworks at home or taking the family along to organised firework events, all parents and other responsible adults should have safety at the forefront of their minds.

Chief Executive of CTSI, Leon Livermore, said: “We don’t want children to pay the ultimate price of buying ‘cheap and cheerful’ Halloween costumes or to suffer because safety hasn’t been the number one concern. Trading standards officers throughout the country work relentlessly towards a safer and better-informed society for consumers and businesses, and we want Halloween and Bonfire Night to be a happy experience.”

The plea comes at a time when trading standards officer numbers have been cut by more than 50% in under a decade, and when service capacity is far below what it should be, according to CTSI. Trading standards services need specialist skills and knowledge to enforce over 260 pieces of legislation determined by the EU, UK and devolved governments.

Mr Livermore added: “Frontline trading standards services within local government are chronically underfunded and so we need the public to be sensible and make safety their number one priority this Halloween and Bonfire Night.”

The message for parents to remember that ‘cheap and cheerful’ is not the best approach. Consumers are being encouraged to

  • buy fancy dress and Halloween costumes from legitimate sources and check that costumes carry appropriate safety labels.
  • look for the CE mark, which indicates that the product complies with the Toy Safety Directive.
  • a label sold by a member of the British Retail Consortium will also contain the words ‘This garment has undergone additional safety testing for flammability’. CTSI warned that counterfeit costumes made with sub-standard materials could put the wearer at risk.

Joint Lead Officer for Product Safety for CTSI Robert Chantry-Price said: “Wigs and face masks can pose dangers not as readily understood by the public as hazards for other aspects of Halloween outfits. Wearers of these items need to stay away from all naked flames because of their restricted view. Cheap Halloween masks may also contain more than the permitted amount of chemicals.”

Bonfire Night poses different dangers alongside nuisance caused, according to Lead Officer for Explosives at CTSI, Ian Hiller.

He said: “Parents should consider taking children to a local authority or other professionally run fireworks display rather than providing their own garden display.”

Trading standards services are continually keeping the public aware and the latest figures from NHS Digital show that attendances at Accident & Emergency Departments in England due to firework injuries fell from 4,436 in 2017-2018 to 1,936 last year (2018-2019).

The UK Government has no current plans to amend UK legislation regarding the sale of fireworks to the public but in a new twist to the ongoing debate, Sainsbury’s has become the first major supermarket to stop selling fireworks at its UK stores.

Ian Hillier added: “Reports of nuisance caused by the misuse of fireworks in public places last Bonfire Night have caused some retailers to consider changing their policy on selling fireworks to the public. Sainsbury’s is the only major retailer to stop selling fireworks this year. Fireworks should only be set off in areas away from passers-by.”

Key safety advice this Bonfire Night

  • only buy CE marked fireworks with instructions in English from licensed retailers (license by local authorities)
  • follow the instructions on each firework to the letter
  • don’t give sparklers to children under five years old
  • no fireworks can be set off after 11 pm except on 5 November when it extends to midnight
  • follow RoSPA’s Fireworks Code for a safe fireworks display