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Fire chiefs warning over Halloween costumes

29 October 2018

PEOPLE GEARING up to celebrate Halloween and Bonfire Night are being reminded by the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) to take care and action to avoid burn injuries.

NFCC urge parents to make sure they are not using candles or naked flames when youngsters are wearing dressing up costumes. We ask people to use LED candles, which display the correct kite mark and discourage youngsters from wearing fancy dress clothing on Bonfire Night while bonfires and fireworks, including sparklers, are alight.

Dressing up costumes are currently classed as toys under British Toy Safety Regulations, meaning they are less fire resistant than children’s nightclothes and assume a child is able to move away from or drop a burning toy.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) introduced more stringent flammability tests and labelling in 2017 for these costumes, which were endorsed by NFCC and others such as Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and the Children’s Burns Trust. Many reputable high street retailers and children’s costume manufacturers in the UK signed up to this more robust voluntary code.

NFCC understand that the British Standards Institution (BSI) is continuing to examine the issue and is working with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).  NFCC hope the work undertaken by BRC will encourage regulations to be reviewed so the same standards are applied to fancy dress costumes as applies to children’s nightwear.

NFCC home safety lead Rick Hylton commented: “Although instances of these costumes catching fire are rare, when they do take place the injuries sustained can be catastrophic. This is why NFCC want to see improvements to regulations and why we continue to work with Fire and Rescue Service across the UK to encourage people not to use naked flames especially near children.

NFCC would like to see BRC’s voluntary code acting as a benchmark for legislation so both the fabric and construction of these items are as safe as possible.”

NFCC’s top tips for safer costumes include:

  • Look at the labels – Labels attached to the product should show a CE Mark which means it complies with EN71-2. This means it has met with the European flammability resistant requirements for toys You may wish to also look for swing labels which indicate the costume has undergone BRC’s additional tests. It will say "This garment has undergone additional safety testing for flammability" which is reassurance the costume is safer than legally required under EN71;
  • Buy from a reputable retailer – cheap or imported costumes may not meet UK safety standards and at worst may carry fake safety labelling;
  • Layer up – Wear clothes under dressing up costumes, this means there is a layer of protection between the costume and your skin which can help protect the skin in the event of a fire incident; and
  • Stop, Drop and Roll – Ahead of Halloween and Bonfire Night, make sure your children know what to do if their clothes catch fire, make sure they understand to stop and not to try and run, drop and cover face with hands, roll a few times to put out the flames.