Many parents regard playpens as a safe playing environment for their children. Yet playpens can pose a safety risk. Since 1990, Health Canada received 156 reports of incidents associated with playpens and their accessories. These included 10 deaths, 1 serious injury, 31 minor injuries, and 114 incidents without injury. Parents should be mindful of the safety hazards associated with playpens, and be aware of Canada’s proposed playpen regulations.
The Proposed Playpen Regulations
On April 21, 2017, the Government of Canada announced proposed regulations to strengthen requirements for playpens to better protect infants and young children from potential harm.
These proposed regulations are, in part, a response to the evolution of playpen designs. Over the years, playpens have achieved greater functionality with added features such as change tables or sleep accessories. These changes are convenient, but increase the safety risks of playpens. Safety risks for infants and young children may include:
- strangulation in collapsed side rails
- getting caught between accessories and the playpen
- getting caught in openings in the sides of the playpen
- suffocation on the angled mattress pads of sleep accessories
Health Canada is proposing to replace regulations under the current Canada Consumer Product Safety Act with the Playpens Regulations. The Playpen Regulations address playpen safety concerns and take into consideration regulations that already exist in the United States. Further, the Playpen Regulations align with the safety requirements for children’s sleep products under the Cribs, Cradles and Bassinets Regulations, which came into force on December 29, 2016 and contain improved safety requirements for products marketed or intended for children’s sleep as well as associated sleep accessories.
Highlights of the Proposed Regulations
The Playpen Regulations include the addition or introduction of requirements and test methods to address:
- unintentional folding or collapse of the top rails of playpens;
- the sizing of playpen floor pads to limit gaps between the edge of the pad and the sides of the pen;
- the angles of sleep surface to limit the potential for suffocation and asphyxia;
- playpen accessories, including accessories intended for unsupervised infant sleep;
- playpen stability;
- concerns relating to playpen projections and the risk of entanglement;
- the height of corner posts and playpen sides; and,
- the maximum number of wheels permitted on playpens.
In addition, Health Canada is proposing bilingual warning labels to appear on playpens to warn parents to be mindful of: 1) blind and curtain cord proximity to playpens, given the risk of strangulation; 2) the assembly and use of playpens and accessories of children the products are designed for; 3) supervision while a child is in the playpen; and 4) keeping the playpen free of soft bedding to reduce the risk of suffocation.