The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said on Thursday that consumer household products with button batteries, including children’s toys, should have secure battery safety compartments, child resistant packaging and clear information and warning labels under the proposed new mandatory standards.
“Button batteries are a serious safety risk. Sadly, two children in Australia have died from incidents involving button batteries, and many more have been hospitalised with serious, long term injuries,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“The safety issues arise when children gain access to the battery. Young children in particular are at the greatest risk due to their narrower oesophagus and tendency to place small objects into their mouths, ears and noses.
“Currently, there is no specific mandatory regulation in Australia or overseas to address the hazards associated with button batteries across the wide range of consumer products that use them.”
Rickard said the ACCC has investigated the safety issues with button batteries and considered the regulatory options available.
“We are proposing new mandatory standards to improve button battery safety. Without such mandatory safety standards it is likely we will continue to see further deaths and serious injuries associated with button batteries
“We believe such safety measures would significantly reduce the risk of children gaining access to and ingesting button batteries,” Rickard said.
Jones said that in addition to button battery safety, other product safety priorities focusing on children include addressing unsafe infant sleeping products, and scoping risk controls for toppling furniture.
“Small children tend to climb on furniture, which if unsecured, can fall on a child or trap and crush them underneath,” she said.
Jones said nationally, at least 22 children under the age of nine have died in Australia from toppling furniture or televisions between 2011 and 2018.
“Additional priorities for 2020 include improving product safety in e-commerce and finalising the compulsory recall of dangerous Takata airbags, with suppliers required to meet their airbag replacement deadline by 31 December 2020.
“The Takata compulsory recall has been the biggest recall in Australian history. We are now in the final stages of the recall, and will be working with manufacturers as well as other stakeholders to ensure they get these potentially deadly airbags off the road,” Rickard said.
Rickard says the ACCC will also continue to dedicate resources to its core product safety functions such as monitoring voluntary recalls, reviewing mandatory safety standards, undertaking hazard assessments and conducting surveillance of unsafe products.