Product Safety & Standards
There’s one common expectation among shoppers – that the products they purchase are safe and suitable to use.
Unfortunately, unsafe products cause two deaths and 145 injuries in Australia every single day.
This includes children swallowing button batteries or climbing furniture that topples over on them, clothing and electronics catching fire, and contaminated food and medicine making people sick.
As retailers, ensuring that we are compliant with Australia’s system of mandatory and voluntary product safety standards is a necessary but often complex task. For each of the 15,000 types of products currently sold by Australian retailers, there are multiple brands, and these constantly evolve according to new fashions, styles and technology.
Technical standards and product safety is an important duty of care for retailers, yet it amounts to volumes of specialised information to absorb and apply. The National Retail Association understands the risks and works with retailers to make product safety a clear and practical priority.
Product recall situations can happen to any business. Consumers expect faulty products to be removed from the marketplace quickly and effectively.
If a product needs to be removed from the marketplace, it’s too late to know whether your suppliers, wholesalers and stores are prepared to act quickly and efficiently. You need to understand what your partners need and what you need from them.
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) provides resources via the Product Safety Australia website to help businesses prepare for a recall, and publishes all currently recalled products across Australia.
- Guide to conducting a recall >
- Recall advertising templates >
- See all current ACCC product recalls >
Industry adviceThis video has been produced as a resource to help organisations better prepare for product recalls. Major retailers explain how suppliers who are better prepared for product recalls helps them to act more quickly to protect their customers. Better recalls through communication, visibility and action.
In Australia, an estimated 20 children per week present to an emergency department with an injury related to a button battery.
Despite government education campaigns and extensive media coverage, many parents remain unaware of the hazards that button batteries pose to children. Button batteries are attractive to young children as they are bright, shiny and easy to swallow.
Button batteries present a hazard wherever they have prolonged local contact with the body, whether they are ingested or inserted (eg in an ear or nose). Lithium button batteries contain a hidden danger when ingested as an electrical current is generated when they come into contact with saliva. This causes internal chemical burns and severe bleeding with damage being caused in as little as one to two hours. These injuries can occur even if the battery that is swallowed is old or spent.
Button batteries are used to power many consumer goods including TV remote controls, cameras, watches, calculators, greeting cards, scales, hearing aids, torches and many others. They are also being increasingly used in children’s toys, novelty items and LED lights.
Button battery risks
Button batteries pose a serious hazard to children. If swallowed, in addition to presenting a choking hazard, a button battery can get stuck in a child’s throat and cause a chemical reaction that burns through tissue causing catastrophic bleeding. Serious injury can occur in as little as two hours. Death or lifelong injury and impairment can result. These injuries can occur even if the battery that is swallowed is old or spent.
The safety risk to children from button batteries arises when they can get access to the batteries. This may occur in different ways:
- household or other products which use button batteries do not have secure or ‘child resistant’ battery compartments;
- products are supplied with button batteries that still need to be installed in packaging that is not child resistant;
- new or replacement button batteries are purchased separately in packaging that is not child resistant;
- old or spent button batteries have been removed from a product but not properly disposed of.
Advice to consumers
- Only purchase button batteries that come in child resistant packaging, and store them securely.
- If you are buying button battery powered devices, look for ones where the battery compartment requires a tool or dual simultaneous movement to open.
- Keep products with button batteries out of sight and out of reach of small children.
- Examine devices and make sure a child cannot gain access to the button batteries inside.
- Dispose of old or spent button batteries you have removed from a product immediately. Flat batteries can still be dangerous.
- If you suspect a child has swallowed a button battery, contact the Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 and you will be directed to the nearest hospital or emergency service that can manage the injury.
Advice to suppliers
- The ACCC strongly encourages suppliers (manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers) to adopt the principles outlined in the voluntary Industry Code for Consumer Goods that Contain Button Batteries (see link below).
- The Code requires consumer goods that use one or more replaceable button batteries to either:
- have a battery compartment (or other enclosure) that is secured (preferably with a captive screw, a bolt or mechanism) such that it requires a tool to gain access to the batteries; or
- have a battery compartment that requires two or more independent, and simultaneous actions to remove its cover.
- Ensure that any button batteries you supply are in child resistant packaging with warnings alerting consumers to the hazards to young children.
- Inform consumers at the point of sale, including for online sales, if the product they are purchasing requires button batteries to operate and that these are hazardous to young children.
- Consider the height at which button batteries and products containing button batteries are displayed in retail stores and assess the likelihood of them being accessed by children in the store.
Further information can be found on the ACCC’s website.
The NRA Technical Standards Committee has enacted major industry change surrounding the use and access to button batteries for children.
The NRA Technical Standards Committee working group devised the current “Industry Code for Consumer Goods that Contain Button Batteries” in conjunction with the ACCC and consumer safety regulators. The Industry Code aims to reduce the risk of death and life threatening injuries to children from button battery ingestion.
Battery Stewardship Council
The NRA is a scheme initiator and supporter of the Battery Stewardship Council. The stewardship scheme calls for responsible management of batteries from design through to its end of life. For retailers selling batteries, stewardship means ensuring these batteries are used safely and once spent, are properly managed to the end of their life. Often it also means providing drop off facilities for consumers seeking to dispose of their batteries responsibly.
Toppling furniture & TVs
Toppling furniture and televisions
Anchor them for child safety
Children like climbing things and never think of the possible consequences, especially if there is something up high that they want. However, the weight of furniture like bookshelves and entertainment units is enough to crush them.
Sadly, at least 22 children under the age of nine years have died in Australia since 2001 in accidents like this.
While most parents are aware of certain risks and furniture like bookshelves have equipment and instructions for anchoring them to a wall at purchase, other items such as chests of drawers, sideboards and TV stands often do not come with instructions and equipment and are not considered hazardous until accidents occur.
- Attach, mount, bolt or otherwise secure furniture and televisions to walls and floors.
- Put locking devices on all drawers to prevent children opening them and using them as steps.
- Do not put heavy items on top shelves of bookcases.
- Discourage small children from climbing on furniture.
- Do not put tempting items such as favourite toys on top of furniture that encourages children to climb up and reach.
- Do not place unstable furniture near where children play.
- Look for furniture that comes with anchoring devices. If it doesn’t include them, ask whether they’re available in the store.
- Purchase low-set furniture or furniture with sturdy, stable and broad bases.
- Tell retail staff if you have small children in your home so they can advise you about safer options.
- Ask if your retailer applies the Best Practice Guide to their product range.
Best practice guide
In an effort to educate consumers, retailers and manufacturers about the dangers of toppling furniture, and the steps that should be taken to prevent this, the National Retail Association Technical Standards Committee released a Best Practice Guide for Furniture and Television Tip-Over Prevention in 2016.
The Guide was developed by the National Retail Association, in consultation with a range of businesses and with support from the ACCC, the Australian Furniture Association (AFA) and the Consumer Electronics Suppliers Association (CESA). Other consumer product associations such as the Australian Furniture Associations and the Consumer Electronics Suppler Association (for televisions) support the NRA in this initiative.
The Guide recommends that suppliers of furniture and televisions:
- develop a company policy that outlines systems to address tip-over hazards associated with their products and states their commitment to support the policy
- affix to the products (or supply with them) anchor devices that are fit for the purpose
- provide consumer information about tip-over hazards and prevention that includes warning labels
- in user / assembly instructions
- on any packaging, including for flat-packed furniture, and
- on the product
- develop and maintain staff training programs and manuals about furniture and television consumer safety initiatives
- provide consumer literature illustrating the various means of anchoring furniture and televisions
- display warnings in the vicinity of tall furniture and televisions strongly advising consumers to use anchors to secure them to a wall or other building structure
The guide focuses on improving furniture and television stability through design, pre-installing anchor devices and educating consumers at point of sale. It covers products such as chests of drawers, wardrobes, shelving as well as televisions.
The best practice guide contains advice on:
- furniture design
- roles for manufacturers, importers and retailers
- types of anchoring devices
- effective user instructions
- consumer education
Using this guide, retailers can work with their suppliers to provide safer products. But with this consumer safety issue, consumers also have a key role to play. As well as building safety into products, retailers who follow the best practice guide will help educate consumers on the importance of anchoring their product once they get it home.DOWNLOAD THE BEST PRACTICE GUIDE
Labels are a key feature of most products. They help to market the product, allow customers to tell it apart from the competition, and give important messages including ingredients, instructions and uses. Manufacturers and retailers need to be aware of their obligations under various legislation affecting product labelling.
What you must include in your label
When you design a label, make sure it complies with the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA), which says you can’t give false, deceptive or misleading information to customers.
The Act also requires that labels are used to give information to consumers, such as:
- the mandatory consumer product information standards under the CCA
- industry specific regulations, such as the Food Standards Code
- labels required by customs for some imported products under the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act.
Specific labelling laws
Pre-packaged goods labelling
Label designs for pre-packaged goods must also comply with the National Trade Measurement Regulations 2009, which include requirements for:
- the position, size and format of measurement information
- for articles packed in Australia, the name and address of the packer.
For more information, read the Guide to the Sale of Pre-Packaged Goods on the National Measurement Institute website.
- Use by and best before dates
- Allergen labelling
- Kilojoule labelling (also applies to menu labelling in some areas)
Country of origin labelling
Country of origin labelling is a notice or label on products to let your customers know what country a product came from.
- misleading country of origin labelling is prohibited
- certain products must have country of origin labelling, such as food.
Country of origin food labels
If you sell food in retail stores in Australia, new country of origin food labelling laws apply to your products from 1 July 2016.Learn More
Australian made claims
If you claim your products originated from Australia, you need to be aware of your obligations under Australian Consumer Law (ACL). Incorrect Australian made claims can lead to penalties, so it’s important to get it right
To help ensure you’re making these claims correctly, download the Australian Competition and Consumer Commissions (ACCCs) Country of origin claims and the Australian Consumer Law guide.
Chemical products labelling
If your business is in the chemicals or plastics industry, read the Chemicals Business Checklist on the Personal protection and chemicals page for labelling and packaging requirements that apply to your products.
What to do…
- Read about trade descriptions and Labelling for imports/exports on the Australian Border Force website
- See Country of origin food labelling page for more information on the new food labels
- Download the Country of origin claims and the Australian Consumer Law guide from the ACCC website
- Read Trade measurement page if the price of your goods is based on measurement of quantity or quality
- Contact the ACCC small business helpline on 1300 302 021.
Children's apparel safety
Children’s apparel safety
Children’s need for exploration and challenge drives them to use products in new and different ways, unfortunately, this also exposes them to multiple hazards such as choking, strangulation, entrapment, and chemical toxicity. Children are also unaware of cause and effect and are substantially less cautious than adults in relation to hazards and therefore products should be safe for their intended use and foreseeable conditions of misuse.
Product Safety Guidelines
The National Retail Association Technical Standards Committee group of quality assurance and product compliance specialists have released the second revision of the Children’s Apparel Product Safety Guidelines.
This industry guide is designed to assist manufacturers, importers, suppliers, retailers and regulators to understand, identify and mitigate critical safety hazards associated with children’s apparel designed, marketed and intended for children from birth up to and including 14 years of age.
The guidelines were developed in consultation with key stakeholders including industry suppliers, retailers, regulators, testing laboratories and consumer associations.
The guide provides easy to navigate indexed sections that cover the following hazard topics:
- Risk assessment modelling
- Chemicals – restricted substances
- Laboratory test methods
- Minimising product risks
- A comprehensive section on cords, drawstrings, tied belts, sashes.
- Trims worksheets covering 11 different trim categories
About the Second Revision
The revision now only includes apparel and provides readers with a broad range of information to build safety considerations into design, from concept to finished articles. The guide uses a variety of existing Australian and international standards and reference points to provide a number of benchmarks and increased clarity on risk management principles. The scope of the cords/drawstring and trims section has also been broadened and now includes visual diagrams to explain and demonstrate specific rules that should be applied to address hazards.DOWNLOAD GUIDELINES
Technical Standards Committee
The NRA Technical Standards Committee (NRA-TSC) brings together quality assurance and product compliance specialists from multiple retail categories to discuss challenges and solutions in terms of product safety and compliance.
This group provides an opportunity for retailers to:
- Keep up to date with changes in the technical standards applying to your products
- Learn from your peers in other Australian retail chains and stores about problems and solutions
- Contribute to and formulate national policy and standards as a Standards Australia nominating committee
- Engage in the dialogue between the retail sector and government and regulators about the issues concerning your business
- Attend presentations on topical issues from guest speakers from industry, regulators and suppliers
- Network with other product safety professionals and specialists in your field of expertise
Submission: 2021 Product Safety Priorities Environmental Scan
The National Retail Association thanks the ACCC for providing the opportunity to engage on their review of priorities for 2021 and provide our submission on behalf of the retail industry and our members.
Children's Apparel Product Safety Guidelines - Second Revision (2020)
The second revision of the Children's Apparel Product Safety Guidelines developed by the National Retail Association Technical Standards Committee.
Presentation: Battery Stewardship Scheme update from the Battery Stewardship Council
Presentation includes clarification on frequently asked questions from retailers.
Submission: Evaluating Australia’s Country of Origin Labelling Discussion Paper (September 2020)
The National Retail Association welcomes the opportunity to provide comment on the Australian Government’s evaluation of the reforms to Australia’s Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) regulations for food.
Submission: ACCC Button Battery Safety – Assessment of Regulatory Options (May 2020)
The NRA agrees with the ACCC and supports Option 3 for a mandatory safety and information standard that includes Options 1 and 2 and includes a requirement for warnings and information...
Submission: Review of the Information Standard – Care Labelling for Clothing and Textile Products (June 2019)
The National Retail Association submits that the information standard should be revoked as the regulation of care labelling for garments and other textiles is unnecessary, can create more confusion with product safety labelling, and unduly increases cost burdens on businesses...