Strict consumer rules are preventing the Government from introducing new window-blind child death prevention safety guidelines on a mandatory basis.
The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is set to publish National Safety Authority of Ireland rules on the potentially lifesaving issue today, in response to growing public concern.
Since 2005, 15 children in Ireland have died from hanging after becoming entangled in window blind cords in their own homes — including Cork child Arran Malley in 2009, and Dean Regan Russell, from Tralee, who died last year.
However, the department is unable to force companies to adhere to the safety policy, meaning the guidelines will only be implemented on a voluntary basis.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner, Aaron O’Connell, a member of the EU working group drawing up similar voluntary guidelines due to be released next year, said the new State rules are of a high quality and should be commended. It is understood the rules will include restrictions on how high the window blind cord should be from the ground, recommended specific safety devices to improve certain window blinds, and damage testing requirements.
However, Mr O’Connell, who has set up the websitewindowblindsafety.ie, said the rules could prove useless because firms cannot be forced to make the expensive changes required.
If they were to do so, people who have already purchased window-blinds could be faced with extra retro-fitting costs to update the items, an issue consumer rules would prevent.
“We’ve had three deaths alone since 2009, when the last safety guidelines were updated. If that standard had been properly policed or implemented on a mandatory basis, those deaths would not have happened.
“The public needs to be educated, but the manufacturers also need to be pushed to comply with safety rules. That will only happen if there are consequences for not doing so.”
Approximately 200 companies currently manufacturer window blinds with low-lying cords in Ireland.
While some have moved to address safety concerns, Mr O Connell said many more have chosen not to improve standards.
A department spokesperson said the office would not comment on the matter until after the guidelines have been published today.
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