25th October 2018

Make Halloween the right kind of scary

As Halloween approaches we’re encouraging revellers to make sure they keep fire safety front of mind

By Mansoor Iqbal
Freelance writer for JTS
One reliable indicator to which one can refer is a CE mark, which is as close to a safety guarantee as one can get.

This article was sponsored by the Office for Product Safety & Standards

The annual celebration of all things spooky and ghoulish that is Halloween is beloved of children and adults alike. Dressing up to go trick or treating or to fancy dress parties is a huge part of the evening’s festivities. The aim is to give people a good fright – it’s important, however, to take care not to suffer the wrong kind of fright yourself.

This is what happened in 2014 to television presenter Claudia Winkleman, when out trick or treating with her daughter Matilda, eight years old at the time. Matilda brushed lightly against a candle – unfortunately this was all it took for her nylon costume to set entirely alight. Winkleman’s neighbour, who helped to put out the fire, described how the material would keep reigniting, and how it melted to Matilda’s skin. She suffered severe burns to her legs, while the neighbour suffered second-degree burns to his hands.

Robert Chantry-Price is the CTSI Lead Officer for Product Safety. He refers to this horrific story to illustrate some of the key points one must consider around fancy dress at Halloween.

Make sure costumes comply to safety standards
It’s important to check that any costume – particularly those for children – meets toy safety standards. “Any Halloween costume should be flame retardant in accordance with EN71 part 2 – the safety standard for flammability of toys.”

He adds that in recent years, there has been a move from various members of the British Retail Consortium to raise the standard of flammability prevention to a higher level. One reliable indicator to which one can refer is a CE mark, which is as close to a safety guarantee as one can get.

If you’re shopping online, Chantry-Price advises that you try to buy from a website based in the UK, to ensure that the costume complies with domestic safety standards. It can be hard to know one specialist costume brand from another, so this can be a useful precaution.

Beware of counterfeits
The Anti-Piracy team at Rubies Masquerade have provided some tips on how to steer clear of purchasing counterfeit costumes online:

  • If it’s too good to be true then it probably is. Genuine costumes are rarely discounted , do not be fooled into thinking you are getting a good deal. Fake costumes retail for as little as £3.99 on auction sites.
  • Spelling mistakes or grammatical errors are a huge giveaway! Traders try to deceive consumers by making slight alternations to well-known brand names.
  • Make sure that the seller address and item location match. If a listing claims to have ‘UK Stock’ but then provides a Chinese business address or no address at all be wary!
  • Deal with reputable sellers only, if you have not dealt with the trader before then make sure you check the online reviews of their store.

Avoid facemasks
Chantry-Price also cautions against costumes with facemasks. “These can problematic, especially as people use these at night. They can affect your ability to see in the dark; if the mask slips a bit, you don’t get a clear view through the eyeholes.” With children in high spirits on Halloween and visibility being worse at night as it is, the risks are clear.

Homemade costumes may not be flame retardant
The above points only refer to prefabricated costumes. There are further complications when it comes to homemade fancy dress. “People may well be using things that aren’t designated children’s fancy dress,” says Chantry-Price. “Capes, pieces of cloth, anything really that they’ve got in the cupboard, which won’t be flame retardant.” Due care must be taken.

Don’t use naked flames
Of course, there’s one piece of advice, he asserts, that can render the above pretty much superfluous. “The thing I’d really advise against is using candles and naked flames.” Simple enough – indeed, if you actually wanted some help seeing in the dark, you’d be much better off getting a LED torch he adds. Many Halloween-costume friendly designs are available, so you won’t even need to compromise on the spookiness of the costume.

Chaperones: stay off the sauce until later
A note for grown-up trick or treat chaperones: While boozy antics are increasingly synonymous with Halloween for the over-18s, those in charge of children would be advised to abstain until trick or treaters are safely ensconced indoors with their sugary hordes (those with only fellow revellers in tow might be advised to be careful around lighters and lit cigarettes).

The issues around Halloween, comments Chantry-Price as a final thought, are much more acute around Bonfire Night, adding, “Don’t take fireworks on trick or treating.” This is antisocial as well as dangerous.

Take due care, however, and there’s no reason that this week of festivities won’t be a memorable and enjoyable way to ring in the winter months.


This article is part of a series. Read our advice for a safe Bonfire Night here.

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