It is estimated that some 20 children have lost their lives in the past 10 years as a result of strangulation by looped blind cords in the UK alone. There is already a European Safety Standard (EN 13120) for internal blinds, but the continued fatalities have highlighted its deficiencies and an update is long overdue.
Why has the Commission failed to address this problem when both the US and Australia have already developed an appropriate standard, covering many of the hazards of all types of window blind cord?
Given that a significant amount of research and evidence has already been collected on this subject both in the UK, by the British Standards Institute, and by other relevant consumer safety authorities outside the EU, can the Commission confirm that it is building on the existing work in this area and exchanging best practices, rather than starting the process from the beginning, which would stand in the way of a swift and cost-effective solution to the problem?
The Commission is aware of the risks posed to children by cords in blinds. In 2006, the Commission requested the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN) to revise the relevant standard EN 13120. The revision was completed in 2009 and more stringent requirements against strangulation risks were included in the standard.
According to these new requirements, manufacturers are obliged to add a warning on the product in a conspicuous position. In addition, the blind shall be designed in such a way as to keep the cords out of reach of children. Alternatively, a safety device shall be supplied.
This revision represents a step ahead for the safety of blinds but there are still some loopholes that have to be addressed.
Some models of blinds operated by a cord are not included in the scope of standard EN 13120. Design requirements that limit the use of cords in blinds are needed as well as requirements for blinds made-to-measure, as these are not subject to the specifications of the European standard EN 13120.
The Commission is working with the Member States and consumer safety stakeholders to set new standards for the safety of consumers in line with the procedures and timing laid down in Directive 2001/95 of the Parliament and of the Council(1)
. Each option must be assessed scrupulously so as to identify the solutions that can stand the test of time and be implemented effectively by economic operators and market surveillance authorities.
In this process the Commission is assessing existing work and working in close contact with the consumer safety authorities in the US and Canada. Despite their existing standards, these countries have been recently confronted with tragic accidents.
Both the US and Canada are therefore revising their relevant standards and legislation to improve the safety of blinds. The Commission is exchanging with these countries technical information and best practices with the aims of fostering a harmonized and coordinated standard development, promoting European values and quality rules and achieving a swift, cost-effective, globally relevant solution that ensures the highest level of safety for children.