Towards the end of last year you may have read about the tragic death of Sophia Parslow a 17 month old toddler who became entangled in the nylon operating cord of a roller blind. It was the fourth child death in similar circumstances in just over 2 years. Similar tragedies have been reported elsewhere in Europe and across the rest of the world.

Most deaths have been to children between 16 and 36 months old. The majority have happened in children’s’ bedrooms and especially where cots or beds have been close to the windows. Experience has also shown that children playing near windows or climbing on furniture are at risk. The strong thin nylon cords on a range of window blinds pose a strangulation hazard to children as loops can be formed and children become entangled.

Recognising this hazard the European Standard for window blinds has recently been revised to impose requirements that will eliminate this risk from new blinds fitted where children are likely to be present. The standard, published in the UK as British Standard EN 13120:2009+A1:2014, came into effect at the beginning of March this year aims to protect young children from the risk of strangulation with the draw cord on curtains, roller blinds and the like.

Businesses that make and supply window blinds and curtains cords need to be aware of the revised standard because it directly impacts their responsibilities under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005. Those regulations require them to manufacture and sell “Safe Products”; products which under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use do not present any risk or only the minimum risk considered to be acceptable and consistent with a high level of protection for the safety and health of persons.

Business that operate to provide childcare, education, leisure and other activities where children are likely to be present should also be aware of the new requirements. They will need to make sure that any new blinds are fitted in accordance with the standard and should also be considering whether there is a need to make any existing blinds safe by retrospectively fitting breakaway safety devices (see below) or by replacing them.

Products subject to these requirements include Venetian blinds, roller blinds, vertical blinds, pleated and honeycomb blinds, Roman Shades, Austrian or Festoon blinds, panel blinds, plantation shutters, and roll-up blinds. Draperies, insect screens and blinds in sealed-glazed units, if operated with cords, chains and ball-chains or similar, which are accessible and form a hazardous loop are also subject to these requirements.

The revised standard applies new rules to internal blinds installed in premises where children aged from 0 to 42 months are likely to have access or to be present. Examples are homes, hotels, hospitals, churches, shops, schools and general public places. The new standards also apply to sales where the destination of the blind is unknown. The rules do not apply to premises where children are unlikely to have access such as factories, offices, laboratories etc.

The requirement where it applies is that all hazardous cords, chains and loops must be removed or made safe. The bottom loop of the chain or cord must be 150 cms from the floor and secured with an safety device, a cord tensioner. Without the safety device the product is not compliant and should not be fitted. However, if the operating chain or cord has a breakaway device then the bottom loop of the cord or chain can be 60 cms from the floor and a tensioner is not needed.

There is an exception for low level blinds. If the installation height of the blind is less than or around 150 cms from the floor then an operating chain with a maximum loop of 20 cms can be used. Although the bottom loop of the chain will be closer than the allowed 150 cms, the 20 cm maximum size loop is deemed to have removed the hazard.

To comply with these requirements many manufacturers now offer window coverings operated by a rod, crank or electric motor. A large number also supply tensioning devices that can be fitted to existing systems. Many supply breakaway devices that can be fitted to existing blinds to make them ‘child safe’.

The trade body representing major suppliers, the British Blind and Shutter Association has produced an advice leaflet and a video on these changes. The 4 page leaflet is available on the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents website at www.rospa.com/homesafety/info/blind-cord-safety.pdf. The video can be opened at www.bbsa.org.uk/domestic/child-safety/26.

Contact Peninsula online for advice on this issue, or call us on 0844 892 2772 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.