Safetyzone Autumn 2018


Welcome to the Autumn 2018 edition of Safetyzone, the Office of Fair Trading´s (OFT) product safety e-newsletter.

Access all areas:

  • Compulsory recall - Takata airbags
  • Essential Baby & Toddler Show
  • Toughened glass and shower screens
  • Pre-Christmas toy survey 2017
  • The potential dangers of button batteries
  • Mermaid tails and monofins hinder swimming ability
  • Anchor it! Don't wait until it's too late - toppling furniture can kill
  • Review of safety standards
  • Recall round-up

Access all areas

Compulsory recall – Takata airbags

A compulsory recall was announced 28 February 2018 for vehicles fitted with defective Takata airbags, following an extensive safety investigation by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The compulsory recall will capture approximately 2.3 million vehicles that still have a defective airbag that needs replacement.

The compulsory recall places requirements on vehicle manufacturers, dealers, importers and other suppliers to ensure that dangerous Takata airbags are located and replaced as quickly as possible.

Further information on this compulsory safety recall is available on the ACCC website.

Essential Baby & Toddler Show

Are you a parent with small children? Do you want to know the safest way to use the products you've bought? Some everyday household goods can be a safety hazard for young children - these hazards change as children grow older. Visit our Consumer Product Safety Unit at this year’s Essential Baby & Toddler Show from Friday 16th to Sunday 18th March at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, South Bank.

We will be running a competition to win a Britax Safe N Sound Maxi Rider, so be sure to stop by our stand and enter.

Keep up to date on toy safety and product safety recalls at the Product Safety Australia website.

Toughened glass and shower screens

Toughened or tempered glass is commonly used in the manufacture of products such as stove tops and hobs, cookware, tableware and shower screens. It is made by a special heating and rapid cooling process which compresses a tough outer surface around its slower-cooled inner core. Toughened glass can be up to four or five times stronger than conventional glass - but not unbreakable.

Toughened glass has its limitations. Its hard outer surface may be weakened by impact, scratching or extremes of hot or cold applied unevenly.  Weakened areas can suddenly expand some time later, and due to the compression of the tight outer surface, cause it to shatter with a loud noise without warning. Although it may sound and appear like an explosion, toughened glass actually "implodes" or shatters inwardly when it breaks.

Fortunately, the implosion of toughened glass products usually results in small blunt cube-like granules that are far less dangerous than the jagged shards produced when ordinary glass breaks.

Nevertheless, it is still dangerous if an implosion occurs when a person is near at the time, due to the relatively large mass of glass and the fact that the body is largely unprotected in this situation.

Shower screens

The Building Code of Australia requires shower screens and shower doors to comply with the requirements of two Australian Standards; AS 1288:1994 and AS 2208:1996.

AS 1288 includes information on the selection and installation requirements for glass in buildings, including toughened glass, as well as human impact safety requirements. The Standard specifies that glass used in shower screens is glazed in either Grade A (toughened and laminated) safety glass or Grade B (wired) safety glass. The minimum thickness of framed toughened glass is 4mm; the minimum thickness of partly framed and frameless toughened glass is 6mm. AS/NZS 2208 details the test requirements for glass including toughened glass.

All safety glass, including film being used in safety glass areas, must be labelled. The label will identify the grade of safety glass (e.g. A or B), the type of glass (laminated or toughened) and that it conforms to the appropriate building Standards (AS2008/AS1288). Alternatively, you can contact an accredited glazier to come to your home to identify the type of glass installed.

Manufacturers often include an accompanying leaflet advising consumers how to care for their glass and hardware. It is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions. The potential risk of glass implosion can be minimised if the glass and hardware such as hinges are properly maintained and cared for.

How shower screens are installed also has a bearing on safety and the possibility of an implosion occurring. The likelihood of an implosion is greater if a moving part, such as an unframed edge of a pivotal glass door, is in close contact with another hard surface. If an unframed edge is rubbing on another surface, have the glass and door hinges adjusted immediately. Poor installation and maintenance increase the risk of toughened glass imploding.

Pre-Christmas toy survey 2017

Fair Trading Inspectors conducted compliance checks at 228 retailers across Queensland in the lead-up to Christmas last year to ensure that children’s toy products offered for sale complied with relevant safety standards. Products checked included toys for children in the most vulnerable age-group up to and including 36 months, aquatic and projectile toys and portable swimming pools. A total of 3,378 product-lines were assessed.

The spot checks resulted in five products being removed from sale:  three types of non-compliant aquatic toys, one unsafe projectile toy and one unsafe plush toy. Officers also ensured that children’s toys containing magnets and button batteries did not present additional, unique safety risks associated with potentially swallowing harmful magnets or coin-sized lithium batteries.

The standards for goods that Queensland Product Safety Officers administer apply nationally to all traders in the supply-chain under the Australian Consumer Law. Information on children’s toy safety and other Australian consumer product safety standards can be viewed or downloaded from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The potential dangers of button batteries

Australian Fair Trading regulators are conducting a follow-up trader survey as part of a national strategy to reduce injuries to vulnerable children associated with the ingestion of button batteries. A key part of the strategy is promoting supplier compliance with the Industry Code for Consumer Goods that Contain Button Batteries.

The Industry Code covers safety risks associated with all button battery powered devices and is not limited to children’s toys. Although compliance with the Industry Code is currently not mandated under legislation, it represents the minimum acceptable safety benchmark for goods that contain or operate on button batteries. Business risk implications can arise should traders decide to continue to supply button battery products that have been assessed as not meeting the essential safety requirements of the Industry Code – e.g. Australian Consumer Law, Section 54 Consumer Guarantee provisions that goods are safe and Section 151 false or misleading representations about goods.

The Industry Code requires:

  • the button battery compartments of devices to be secure (e.g. requiring a tool such as a screw driver to open the battery compartment)
  • child resistant packaging for replacement button batteries
  • specific child safety warnings must be displayed on the packaging of devices and replacement batteries
  • button battery safety information must be displayed at point-of-sale
  • replacement button batteries must be displayed higher on retail shelving to reduce the risk of children being able to access them.

The ACCC and Fair Trading regulators will consider the outcome of the trader surveys to determine what further action may be deemed warranted to ensure that the supply of button battery powered devices do not present unacceptable risks to the health and well-being of children.

Consumers and suppliers can also contact the OFT Consumer Product Safety Unit on (07) 3008 5980 if they require clarification or further information regarding button battery safety issues.

Mermaid tails and monofins hinder swimming ability

Kids just love playing dress-up!  Mostly, it’s just a bit of harmless fun but sometimes there can be unintended consequences.

A study into the drowning risks associated with mermaid tails and monofins has found that they significantly hinder a child’s ability to swim and has recommended age restrictions and increased supervision when in use.

The study, conducted by the Royal Life Saving Society of Western Australia (RLSSWA) and funded by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), tested the swimming performance of 25 girls and boys aged 2 to 12 years before and after wearing either a mermaid tail or monofin.  Sixteen parents and 9 swimming instructors also took part in the research.

The study found that the majority of the children experienced an average decrease of 70% in their swimming ability while using monofins and a 60% decrease in their swimming ability while using mermaid tails. Younger children experienced greater difficulty than those in the older age groups.

The Royal Lifesaving Society Australia has developed a factsheet on mermaid tails and monofins.

The OFT strongly recommends that consumers of these products follow the safety tips below:

  • only competent swimmers should use the mermaid tail and monofin
  • make sure your child can still perform basic swimming tasks when using these products
  • never allow your child to use a mermaid tail or monofin in open water
  • children should be directly supervised by a responsible adult at all times while wearing either the tails or fins.

This is also a good time to remind consumers that flotation and aquatic toys are not safety devices. Children who can't swim may drown if their aquatic toy fails or if they do not use it properly. Children injured while playing with a toy in the water are at greater risk of drowning. To keep your child safe:

  • make sure the toys or swimming aids are suitable for your child’s age and weight
  • do not use pool toys for purposes other than those recommended on the packaging or instructions
  • follow any instructions or warnings carefully
  • check before you use to make sure there are no leaks or damaged valves
  • aquatic toys should always be removed from the pool area when not in use and stored securely off-site so children are not tempted into the pool area without supervision
  • inflatable pool toys should be deflated when not in use
  • children should be supervised in the water by a responsible adult at all times a swimming aid or pool toy is not a substitute for supervision.

Anchor it! Don’t wait until it’s too late - toppling furniture and televisions can kill

Tip-over incidents are 100% preventable. This was just one of many key messages highlighted during an international social media campaign held in November last year to raise awareness about the dangers of toppling furniture.

Statistics in Australia alone show that an estimated 2600 Australians receive hospital treatment for injuries caused by toppling furniture and televisions every year (equating to approximately 50 per week). Injuries reported include:

  • broken bones
  • brain injuries
  • blunt force trauma
  • crushed chest cavities
  • death by asphyxiation.

And this data doesn’t include all the near-misses!

Building on the good work of the campaign, we will survey furniture suppliers during the year to ensure that they are aware of this safety issue and of their obligations under the consumer guarantee provisions of the Australian Consumer Law to offer products that are safe and fit for purpose.

Safety is everyone’s responsibility.

Consumers should consider the following actions:

  • secure televisions and furniture with anchoring devices
  • purchase low-set furniture or furniture with sturdy, stable and deep bases
  • test furniture in the shop to make sure it is stable i.e. won’t easily tip-over if climbed on
  • install child-resistant drawer locks to prevent drawers from being opened and climbed on.

Suppliers can help prevent injuries by:

  • ensuring that products are stable and resistant to tipping over
  • ensuring products they sell comply with the voluntary Best Practice Guide for Furniture and Television Tip-Over Prevention
  • selling appropriate anchoring devices with tall freestanding bookcases, drawers, wardrobes, sideboards and televisions
  • displaying safety information about the dangers of toppling furniture at the point of sale.

A video on toppling furniture safety risks and its prevention is available on the Product Safety Australia website.

Review of safety standards

The following new safety standards have been recently announced. If you sell any of these products then you should take the time to become familiar with the new requirements.

Basketball rings and backboards

The safety standard for basketball rings and backboards, the Consumer Goods (Basketball Rings and Backboards) Safety Standard 2017 has recently been updated to ensure greater protection for consumers. The purpose of the safety standard is to reduce the risk of death and serious injury resulting from the improper installation and use of basketball rings and backboards.

The safety standard continues to require basketball rings and backboards to have a warning label. The warning label states that improper installation or swinging on the ring may cause serious injury or death.

The new safety standard also requires suppliers to include safe installation instructions where the product is designed to be fixed to a structure. Safe installation instructions provide guidance to consumers installing a ring and/or backboard to do so in a manner that limits the likelihood of improper installation leading to serious injury or death.

There is a transition period for 12 months with the previous safety standard to be repealed 19 December 2018.

During this transition period, suppliers can comply with either standard.

Babies’ dummies and dummy chains

Babies’ dummies and dummy chains will be subject to a new single product safety standard, the Consumer Goods (Babies’ Dummies and Dummy Chains’) Safety Standard 2017 from 1 July 2019. The improved safety standard incorporates standards from Europe (where most dummies sold in Australia are manufactured) and will also make it easier for businesses selling these product to ensure they comply.

Suppliers have been given a two-year transition period to meet the requirements of the new Australian safety standard. This means that dummies and dummy chains offered for sale up until 1 July 2019 can meet any of the following mandatory standards:

  • Trade Practices Act 1974 – Consumer Protection Notice No 4 of 2006;  or
  • the new Australian Standard ; or
  • the European Standard (BS EN 1400:2013 + A1:2014).

From 1 July 2019, only the new Australian standard will apply.

Elastic luggage straps

It is estimated that 28 injuries are associated with luggage straps in Australia each year. While the number of injuries has decreased over time, a risk of injury still remains.

The new Consumer Goods (Elastic Luggage straps) Safety Standard 2017 updates the wording on the warning label in line with consumer comprehension testing and best practice for safety warnings. A transition period is underway to allow suppliers to manage the changeover to the new mandatory standard.

From 1 July 2019, suppliers must comply with the requirements of the new mandatory standard.

Nightwear for children

Children’s nightwear has a new safety standard with highly-flammable garments excluded from sale and improved labelling to better inform consumers whether the garment is a high or low fire risk.

The revised safety standard Consumer Goods (Children’s Nightwear and limited daywear and Paper Patterns for Children’s Nightwear) Safety Standard 2017 is based on Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 1249:2014 - Children’s nightwear and limited daywear having reduced fire hazard.

Children’s nightwear that meets the requirements of AS/NZS 1249:2014 can be sold in Australia immediately. Products that meet the requirements of the previous safety standard can be sold until 31 December 2019. This brings Australia in line with New Zealand which has fully adopted the same standard version.

Motor vehicle recovery straps

These particular straps, also called ‘snatch straps’, are heavy duty straps designed to assist in pulling a vehicle, typically a 4 wheel drive, free from a bogged situation. The straps connect between two vehicles and stretch under the momentum of the ‘towing’ vehicle when it starts to pull the bogged vehicle out. The elasticity of the straps, combined with the weight being towed, are factors that can result in serious injury or death it the straps are not used correctly.

The new mandatory standard Consumer Goods (Motor Vehicle Recovery Straps) Safety Standard 2017 ensures that motor vehicle recovery straps meet essential marking and information requirements to minimise the risk of injury or death from unsafe use. Suppliers have a two-year transition period to meet the requirements of the newly introduced Australian safety standard.

Throughout this transition period, motor vehicle recovery straps offered for supply until 2 December 2019 must comply with either the new safety standard or the previous mandatory standard Trade Practices (Consumer Product Safety Standard) (Motor Vehicle Recovery Straps) Regulations 2010.

Information on mandatory safety requirements for the supply of motor vehicle recovery straps is available on the ACCC website.

Portable ramps

Up to 1 December 2019, suppliers must comply with the requirements from either the new Consumer Goods (Portable Ramps for Vehicles) Safety Standard 2017 or the previous Consumer Product Safety Standard for Portable Ramps for vehicles (Consumer Protection Notice No. 2 of 2010).

Portable ramps for vehicle must all be supplied with a range of information, including instructions for safe use and assembly instructions (if assembly is required). The new standard for vehicle ramps requires products to carry a warning notice in letters not less than 5mm high on a contrasting background as follows:

Trolley jacks

These particular devices consist of a jack mounted on a chassis, which may have wheels; and which is provided with a handle to position the jack under a vehicle; and includes hydraulic cylinders filled with hydraulic fluid to lift the vehicle. Apart from meeting the structural integrity to be fit for purpose and safe, trolley jacks and their packaging must meet essential marking and information requirements to minimise the risk of death from incorrect or unsafe use.

Suppliers have a two-year transition period to meet the requirements of the newly introduced Australian safety standard, the Consumer Goods (Trolley Jacks) Safety Standard 2017.

This means that trolley jacks offered for supply until 20 December 2019 can legally meet either the new mandatory standard or the previous standard Trade Practices Act 1974 Consumer Protection Notice No. 10 of 2008 - Consumer Product Safety Standard for Trolley Jacks.

Information on mandatory safety requirements for the supply of vehicle support stands is available on the ACCC website.

Vehicle support stands

The particular stands are defined as a device of fixed or adjustable height onto which an appropriate part such as the axle or chassis of a raised vehicle is lowered and supported for the purpose of maintenance or storage of the vehicle. Apart from meeting the structural integrity to be fit for purpose and safe, vehicle support standards and their packaging must meet essential marking and information requirements to minimise the risk of death from incorrect or unsafe use.

Suppliers have a two-year transition period to meet the requirements of the newly introduced Australian safety standard, the Consumer Goods (Vehicle Support Stands) Safety Standard 2017.

This means that motor vehicle support stands offered for supply up to 2 December 2019 can legally meet either the previous mandatory standard the Trade Practices Act 1974 Consumer Protection Notice No. 12 of 2008 - Consumer Product Safety Standard for Vehicle Support Standards; or the new Consumer Goods (Vehicle Support Stands) Safety Standard 2017.

Information on mandatory safety requirements for the supply of vehicle support stands is available on the ACCC website.

Swimming and flotation aids

Swimming and flotatation aids come in several forms that children can either wear, have attached to their bodies or sit in, to gain confidence through water familiarisation or to assist them in acquiring unaided buoyancy through swimming tuition.

Swimming and floatation aids maybe designed as, but are not limited to armbands or cuffs, attached rings, seats or swimming vests. The mandatory safety standard applies to swimming and flotation aids made for children under 14 years of age.

The revised mandatory safety standard for these products, the Consumer Goods (Swimming and Flotation Aids) Safety Standard 2017 is based on the requirements of the voluntary Australian AS/NZ 1900:2014 Flotation aids for water familiarisation and swimming standard.

Suppliers have a transition period to meet the requirements of the new mandatory standard until the 19 December 2019. Products which complied with the previous Consumer Product Safety Standard for Swimming Aids for Water Familiarization Swimming Tuition (Consumer Protection Notice No. 3 of 2009) may be sold until then but not after 19 December 2019.

Recalls roundup

A product safety recall is the most common way for a supplier to remove unsafe goods from the supply chain. However, to be effective, consumers need to be made aware of current recalls on consumer products.

Listed below are some products which have recently been recalled nationally:

More information on product recalls can be found on the ACCC recalls website.

Need help?

Should consumers or traders need further help in identifying product hazards or working with standards or developing a compliance plan, please contact the Product Safety Unit at Fines for non-compliance with standards can be substantial so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

For more information on regulated products subject to mandatory standards and bans or to check for information about consumer products and services visit the Product Safety Australia website.

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