Window blind cords and curtain cords
This advice is designed to provide basic guidance to traders. It is not a complete or authoritative statement of the law. Please note that some of the advice we provide to businesses is chargeable.
There have been 28 children in the UK since 1999 that have died from accidents related to internal cords (14 since the beginning of 2010). These deaths are avoidable.
The UK has the largest market for internal blinds in Europe and has been instrumental in adapting the European Standard EN 13120:2009 which sets out the performance and safety requirements for internal blinds, particularly the sections dealing with child safety
As a result, all blinds placed on the market now have to display warning labels placed on the front of blinds as well as on packaging. They must include safety instructions, as well as safety devices to ensure blind cords are kept out of the reach of young children. The Standard also imposes a maximum cord and chain length where there is a likely hood of young children 0-42 months present which includes homes and public places like hotels, hospitals, schools, shops, places of worship and nurseries.
We support the British Blind and Shutter Association's (BBSA) 'Make It Safe' Campaign in raising awareness of the potential dangers blind cords may pose to babies and young children and in ensuring that safety advice is supplied with the blinds.
We also support the work of organisations such as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), the Child Accident Prevention Trust (Capt) and Public Services, to raise public awareness.
The British Standards Institution (BSI) published the new standards on 28 February 2014.
BS EN 13120:2009 Internal blinds Performance requirements including safety has been revised. This is the main Standard.
The revised standard is supported by two new additional standards relating to the testing requirements. A product complying with BS EN 13120:2009+A1:2014 will in effect meet all 3 Standards.
BSI published the standards on 28 February 2014:
- BS EN 13120:2009:+A1:2014 Internal blinds Performance requirements including safety
- BS EN 16433:2014 Internal blinds Protection from strangulation hazards Test methods
- BS EN 16434:2014 Internal blinds Protection from strangulation hazards Requirements and test methods for safety devices
To keep things simple, all references to the revised and supporting standards will be as EN 13120.
- Window coverings
What is the purpose of the revised standard EN 13120?
The European Standard (EN13120) sets out the performance and safety requirements for internal blinds. However, it was felt that it was not robust enough when dealing with child safety. The revised standard addresses this. The blind cord requirements are intended to minimise the risk of injury and death to children from looped cords. 28 children in the UK since 1999 have died (14 since the beginning of 2010).
What sorts of blinds (and curtains) are captured by the requirements of the standard?
All blinds, curtains, indeed all window coverings intended for indoor use that have a looped cord, beaded chain or other material are captured by the new requirements. See scope in the next section, The Standards.
Who is required to comply with the standard EN 13120?
BS EN 13120, like any other standard, is voluntary and there are no plans to make this mandatory through legislation. However, as a European harmonised standard it will be referenced under the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD). The GPSD provides the legal basis for mandatory product safety requirements and means that any blind manufactured in accordance with the new standard will have a presumption of conformity with the GPSD. In other words adherence to the standard is sufficient, but not necessary, to demonstrate compliance with the Directive.
Manufacturers may choose not to follow the standard but they will still need to show evidence by other means, for example via test results or safety certificates, that their product meets the same level of safety as laid down in the standard.
The overarching requirement remains that products placed on the market must be safe. Given their engagement in this issue to date, we expect the entire industry to welcome and adhere to the new standard as soon as possible.
What happens if a consumer does not want the safety devices or labels installed?
They should still be supplied with the compliant goods, including labels and any safety devices. Clearly a supplier cannot be held responsible if the end user decides to remove or not fit the safety features or labels supplied.
What is the Government doing to raise consumer awareness on the potential dangers around internal blind cords?
In late 2008 BIS set up an internal blind cords safety group made up of various stakeholders from Industry, the British Blind and Shutter Association (BBSA), the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), Child Accident Prevention Trust (Capt) and Trading Standards and later the British Retail Consortium. From the early meetings it was decided that the best way to raise awareness was to highlight the work already being done by the BBSA 'Make it Safe' campaign, and RoSPA's 'Safe at Home' programme, and the Group continues to look at ways in which the issue can be communicated to consumers. (The awareness campaign has included articles and messages from BIS Ministers).
Is the internal blinds industry aware of the revised standard EN 13120?
The UK blind trade is characterised by small and micro businesses and this is representative of the BBSA membership. Also within the BBSA membership they have the world's largest blind company, the UK's largest supplier of hardware systems and fabrics and Europe's largest retailer of blinds. The daily reach of these organisations within the trade and retail market is very significant.
To ensure as complete coverage as possible the BIS with the assistance of BBSA delivered a mail shot in November 2012 to around 6,500 traders in the supply chain (manufacturers, importers, retailers, fitters) advising them of their responsibilities and highlighting the changes the revision will bring.
What is a standard and is it compulsory?
In essence, a standard is an agreed way of doing something. The point of a standard is to provide a reliable basis for people to share the same expectations about a product or service and in the case of EN 13120 enhance consumer protection and confidence especially regards the aspects relating to child safety.
BS EN 13120, like any other standard, is voluntary and there are no plans to make this mandatory through legislation. As a European harmonised standard it will be referenced under the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD), which means that any blind manufactured in accordance with the new standard will have a presumption of conformity with the GPSD. In other words adherence to the standard is sufficient, but not necessary, to demonstrate compliance with the Directive. The overarching requirement is that products placed on the market must be safe.
Why do I have to pay for the standards?
To get a standard published is a drawn out and costly process. This is why national standards bodies such as the BSI in the UK need to charge access to them. This is the case for all standards. It is unfortunate that this does of course represent an additional burden on industry and that this will fall disproportionately on small businesses.
When were the standards published and I thought we had until the 31 March to comply?
CEN, the European Committee for Standardization, is responsible for developing and defining voluntary standards at European level and as such provides the platform for the development of European Standards.
CEN published the standards on 19 February and as an association that brings together the National Standardization Bodies (NSB) of 33 European countries disseminated the standards to the NSB's so they could check the language and content before they publish themselves.
The 31 March was a provisional date for publication. They were eventually published on 28 February 2014 by the British Standards Institute (BSI) which, whilst slightly earlier than expected, should not have been a surprise in terms of its content.
What about blinds already on the market?
The introduction of the revised standard does not mean that blinds already placed on the market automatically become unsafe. Manufacturers and importers should already be carrying out a risk assessment to ensure their products are safe.
A practical approach on the behalf of the supply chain with products already on the market may be to offer to provide or retro fit safety devices, and provide safety information whenever they get commissioned to install or sell the blinds.
As with the introduction of any standard safe stock already on the market can continue to be sold until it has run out.
The details of the new standard reflect the EU commission Decision of 27 July 2011 2011/477/EU 'on the safety requirements to be met by European standards to address the risks posed to children by internal blinds' and it is this mandate that the new standards have been based. It would have been advisable for any producer to risk assess their products against the Decision from that date until the new standards became available.
Is there a transitional period?
There is no recognised lead in for these changes to be implemented. Any injury or fatality as a result of an infringement of the rules can result in prosecution.
Given their engagement in this issue to date, we expect the entire industry to welcome and adhere to the new standard as soon as possible. In the interim, practical options might include offering to provide or retrofit safety devices, and providing relevant safety information at the point of sale. The main role of Trading Standards during this period is to offer advice and guidance to industry on making their products compliant, rather than removing non-compliant products from the market.
There is a new requirement for a maximum cord and chain length, how will this affect some disabled persons?
There is a new requirement for a maximum cord and chain length. Unfortunately, this may affect some disabled consumers. However, there are alternative products or operating systems which can be installed which can allow the disabled person to operate a curtain or blind.
Has industry been slow to react to the concerns of consumers?
Industry takes the issue very seriously, they are continually developing new and innovative blinds that are cordless or have concealed cord systems, and it is hoped one day there will be no corded products on the market. Through the participation of the BBSA the industry has taken action to improve the safety of its products, however, that effort needs to be maintained if the level of awareness amongst consumers is to be increased.
There have been blinds on the market without looped cords for over 15 years and industry continue to develop new and innovative blinds that are cordless or have concealed systems. However, the most common blinds in homes over the last 30 years have been Venetian which have looped cords.
What about blinds already in homes?
The safest option is to replace all looped corded blinds in homes with cordless but this would be too expensive if as estimates have said there are 200 million in homes. The revision of EN 13120 makes provision for the retrofitting of safety devices for blinds already in homes such as cleats or snap connectors.
The BBSA's 'Make it Safe' campaign already successfully promotes this safety message. The use of tie backs, cleats and snap connectors should be fitted.
Retailers and especially fitters when selling or fitting blinds to consumers should promote safety messages and where required provide and fit appropriate safety devices especially to blinds already fitted in homes.
The safety requirements shall apply to all internal blinds and corded window coverings whatever their design and the nature of the materials used, such as:
- venetian blinds
- roller blinds
- vertical blinds
- pleated and honeycomb blinds
- roman shades
- Austrian /festoon blinds
- panel blinds
- plantation shutters
- roll-up blinds
Draperies, insect screens and blinds in sealed-glazed units, if operated with cords, chains and ball-chains or similar, which are accessible and form a hazardous loop are also subject to these requirements.
These safety requirements shall refer to children (young children) aged from 0 to 42 months as a minimum.
In defining performance requirements for internal blinds and corded window coverings, it is essential to consider their reasonable foreseeable conditions of use, and the potential hazards that can result from accessible cord(s), chain(s), ball- chain(s) or similar to children.
In order to reduce the risk of strangulation and internal asphyxiation internal window blinds (and corded window coverings) shall be of an inherently safe design. Every possible means, based in the state of the art and technology, shall be considered for the safe design of the product, when used in all reasonably foreseeable environments where young children have access to or are likely to be present, such as, for example, homes, hotels, hospitals, churches, shops, schools, nurseries, and public places in general. Blinds and window coverings to be fitted in offices or any other place, which is transformed from its initial destination and where young children are likely to be present, shall also be subject to the present requirements.
Internal blinds and corded window coverings that have accessible cord(s), chain(s), ball-chain(s) or similar shall comply with the following minimum requirements:
- cord(s), chain(s), ball-chain(s) and similar shall not form a hazardous loop
- if the design of the product does not eliminate the risk that a hazardous loop is formed, the product shall be provided with appropriate safety devices, to minimise the risk of strangulation
- safety devices shall be provided as an integral part of the product
- safety devices which are non-integral (such as cleats) shall be pre-installed on the operating cord(s) or chain(s) or ball-chain(s) of the blind or window covering. In addition, a warning shall be conspicuously displayed on the safety device. The warning shall convey at least the following messages: Children can strangle if this device is not installed. Read carefully the instructions and install accordingly. Always use this device to keep cords or chains out of reach of children
- if present, the safety device(s) shall be resistant to the operation by young children. In addition, the safety device(s) shall not pose risks of physical injuries to children, due, for example, to sharp edges, entrapment of fingers or protruding parts. The safety devices shall also sustain durability and fatigue tests (wear and tear) and shall be resistant to ageing due to weather conditions. The safety device shall not release small parts that could result in internal asphyxiation of the child. EN 28.7.2011 Official Journal of the European Union L 196/23
- cord(s), chain(s), ball-chain(s) and similar shall not release small parts which could result in internal asphyxiation of the child.
BS EN 13120 details various maximum cord and chain lengths depending on the type of safety device fitted and whether the installation height is known.
- Maximum cord and chain lengths where installation height known
- Maximum cord and chain lengths where installation height not known
The GPSD is binding on businesses not on consumers.
So whilst a consumer can choose to install what they wish and how they wish in their own home a professional installer must install a compliant product.
A consumer cannot remove the legal responsibility of a professional installer under the GPSD - for example by signing to say they do not want safety devices fitted.
- Product safety information
Warnings shall be provided, in a clear and conspicuous way at the point of sale, on the package, on the product and in the information for use.
The warnings shall convey at least the following:
- Young children have been strangled by loops in pull-cords, chains and tapes, and cords that operate the product
- To avoid strangulation and entanglement, keep cords out of the reach of young children. Cords may become wrapped around a child's neck
- Move beds, cots and furniture away from window covering cords
- Do not tie cords together. Make sure cords do not twist and create a loop
- The warnings shall include the relevant pictogram
- The name or trademark of the manufacturer or importer and professional installer (if any) shall also be displayed on the product
- Instructions for assembling, installing and safely using the blind or the window covering (including the safety device(s)) shall be included in the package
- Safety devices intended for retrofitting
Internal blinds or corded window coverings fitted with the relevant safety device(s), shall fulfil the requirements set out in section 2.
The safety device(s) shall be accompanied by the following warnings, information and instructions:
- the name or trademark of the manufacturer or importer and professional installer (if any)
- the instructions: Read these instructions carefully before installing and using the device. Children can be strangled if the device is not installed correctly. Keep the instructions for future reference. Use of additional safety devices helps reduce the risk of strangulation but cannot be considered entirely foolproof
- the instructions: Test the device if not used regularly and 'Replace the device if it is faulty
- a warning that the release of small parts could result in the internal asphyxiation of the child
- information on the type of internal blind or corded window covering for which the product is designed and tested
- information on the use (purpose, and possible limitations of the safety device)
- precise instructions on correct installation and location of the device(s). If a special assembly tool is needed, it shall be provided by the supplier of the device(s)
- the instructions shall be accompanied by pictograms to facilitate understanding
- any other information for safe use. EN L 196/24 Official Journal of the European Union 28.7.2011
- Blind cord danger pack
Hampshire Trading Standards have put together a pack to reduce the risk.
This free pack is available to Hampshire County Council residents.
The pack contains:
- make it safe advice leaflet
- one cleat - to tie cords up safely
- fixing instructions for the cleat
- blind safety warning tag
Some packs have been supplied to libraries, community centres, and in some in GP surgeries. You can also order online or phone 01962 833620.