Infants cannot look out for themselves – this is obvious and therefore adults need to be extra careful. Toddlers and younger children do not recognize dangers and don’t understand cause and effect. Older children and young adults have a tendency towards feelings of infallibility and may be vulnerable to peer pressure.
Safety in the sleeping environment
When an infant is sleeping there is no direct supervision for extended periods and of course this can bring its own added dangers: for example, suffocation, strangulation, choking and overheating. These dangers have been identified by the authorities in Europe as being of sufficient magnitude to warrant the publication of specific safety standards in an attempt to reduce the potential for risk to the sleeping child:
- EN 16779-1 Safety requirements and test methods for children's cot duvets
- EN 16779-2 Safety requirements and test methods for children's cot duvet covers
- EN 16780 Safety requirements and test methods for children's cot bumpers
- EN 16781 Safety requirements and test methods for children's sleep bags for use in a cot
Cot duvets and bumpers, perhaps because they are more traditional or conventional bedding, seem to attract less controversy than the so-called sleep bag or sleep sack.
Unlike the duvet, the sleep bag is worn and so it is less like bedding and more like clothing. It is designed to prevent the child from kicking it off during sleep and thus stay warm throughout the night. It is intended to be worn by the child without additional bedding and so its insulation value (tog value) has to be chosen to suit the environment to which the child will be exposed. Thinner and lighter weight bags are used in warm rooms and thicker, heavier weight bags are used in cooler rooms. Tog values of between 1 (very light) and 4 (padded) are commonly available. It is essential that the child does not overheat during the night as this is recognized as a contributing factor to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Infants find it difficult if not impossible to regulate their body temperature the way that adults do, and so it is important that head and arms are not covered by the bag during unsupervised sleep. Sleep bags are designed such that the infant’s head and arms protrude from the sleep bag and further, the bag is designed with a maximum size for the neck opening and armholes so that the child cannot slip down inside where they might suffocate.
Factors considered in the standard
The standard covers a wide range of design, performance and labelling issues such as:
- Thermal properties (tog)
- Size of neck opening
- Presence of small or loose parts which may become choking hazards
- Risk of pinching, chafing or cutting from fasteners
- Long or loose threads which could wrap round fingers and toes
- Looped labels which could trap fingers and toes
- Accessible filling materials which could be ingested or inhaled
- Cords and drawstrings which could be strangulation hazards
- Chemical treatments
- Burning behaviour
- Product marking/labelling
- Purchase Information and advice on product use
All must be met if compliance is to be achieved.
EN 16781 ensures that the sleep bag is as safe as it can be and that the variables such as insulation value and others mentioned above are satisfactory. The standard also requires that advice (user information) is given to the purchaser regarding the choice of insulation value for the home circumstances.
This relatively new standard supersedes the older BS 8510 which is now withdrawn and compliance with EN 16781 should avoid challenges and recalls under the General Product Safety Regulations.
To the Public
In order to ensure your child is safe in the sleeping environment, ensure you only choose safe products and only choose sleep bags compliant with EN 16781.
To the Retailer
It is an offence to sell an unsafe product. Ensure all of your products are compliant with the latest standard and that all prescribed labelling and safety literature is present on the product.
When you need to be sure
Let SGS in Leicester help you to get the testing done and check compliance.
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