Halloween Costumes and Fireworks

We are entering the Autumn festive period of Guy Fawkes Night and Halloween and two pieces of news need to be passed on and some explanation given.

The first relates to the current information campaign relating to Halloween costumes for children.  This has been widely promoted by CTSI and fire services and, the resultant press coverage has been slightly misleading.  I believe some clarity needs to be brought to the issue.

The campaign takes its lead from the accident which led to the daughter of the television presenter Claudia Winkleman receiving serious burns when the Halloween costume she was wearing caught fire.  This resulted in the government getting Trading Standards Officers to purchase and test a wide range of Halloween costumes for flammability.  The result of these tests is due in a report in coming weeks and it appears that there may be a call to increase the fire retardant qualities of children’s Halloween costumes.

Currently, most Halloween costumes are tested to the safety requirements of the Toy Safety Standard, EN71.  This has been described as an insufficient test because it is designed so that, if a toy catches fire, it can be dropped by the child who can get away from the fire.  As a Halloween costume is worn, this method of escape is impossible.

Some manufacturers are now testing to the Children’s Nightwear flammability standard.  This was brought in in the 1960’s when man made fibres such as Rayon were being used and children sitting next to the sitting room gas fire were catching light.  Again this standard’s test may be insufficient to meet the environment a Halloween costume is used in i.e. often a non-domestic setting.

Personally, I have been spitting feathers as a result of the coverage of this issue.  As a former Trading Standards Officer who regularly test purchased and tested these items, it seems manufacturers and many in my old profession are confusing the terms of a standard with the general duty to safety in both the Toy Safety Regulations 2011 and the General Product Safety Regulations 2005.

I was always told when I was training that you test to the regulations and not to the standard.  It seems that many are now seeing the term standard as a catch all term for safety.  It was never thus.

EN71 is a safety standard which is meant to cover all the safety aspects of a toy.  Over the years, this standard has been amended and added to as novel toys have entered the market.  It has always had to catch up with the market.

Secondly, there is the question of whether a Halloween costume is a toy.  I would argue that given the definition of toy in the regulations is “products designed or intended (whether or not exclusively) for use in play by children under 14 years old”, Halloween costumes are not toys.  Even if you disagree, there is a solid case for arguing that testing to EN71 does not meet the general safety requirement for toys given in the regulations and that a stronger flammability test needs to be applied.

If you agree that Halloween costumes are not toys; as many retailers and manufacturers clearly do as they have switched to the Children’s nightwear standard; then you must meet the safety requirements of the General Product Safety Regulations not the Toy Safety Regulations.

Incidently, the General Product Safety Regulations do not invoke the CE marking requirement of the Toy Safety Regulations.  If a manufacturer considers a Halloween Costume not to be a toy, they would be committing an offence by improperly applying the CE mark to it.

The General Product Safety Regulations require manufacturers and importers to carry out a risk assessment on their products with regard to safety and to apply appropriate standards.  These regulations do not state a particular standard must be used.  It may be that manufacturers feel the tests in EN71 are appropriate but given the incident with Claudia Winkleman’s daughter and the screen testing carried out by trading standards, it is clear that a significant safety issue exists even if the toy standard is applied.

It is therefore necessary for manufacturers of Halloween costumes ensure that costumes are designed so that the flammability risk is minimised or mitigated.

We do not need an amendment to EN71, we need manufacturers to take their responsibilities under the General Product Safety Regulations seriously and to apply appropriate testing which meets the results of their risk assessment rather than simply choosing an existing test which does not meet the environment in which the costume is used.


It has been reported that £20,000 worth of Fireworks have been stolen from a supermarket in the Black Country.  The thieves used cutting equipment to break into the storage containers in the supermarket delivery area.  Fireworks can only be sold from registered premised.  Please do not buy fireworks at a market stall, car boot sale or from someone in the street.  It is highly likely that these fireworks have been stolen or otherwise illegally obtained.  If you are approached, please contact the Police or your local Trading Standards Service