Battery industry told to charge up safety

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is clamping down on the battery industry following the death of a toddler in Queensland from swallowing a lithium battery.

It held a meeting in Sydney on Friday with button battery manufacturers, importers, retailers and industry associations to discuss improvements to button battery safety.

The toddler’s death in early June was not the first tragedy linking small batteries and children.

“The ACCC has been concerned about the number of severe injuries to children from lithium coin cell batteries over recent times,” ACCC acting chair Delia Rickard said in a statement.

“The recent tragic death of a young girl in Queensland heightened the importance of improving the safety management of these batteries and products that incorporate them.”

The meeting explored ways to strengthen consumer education activities and improve safety warnings on the packaging of lithium coin cell batteries. The ACCC wants the industry to improve child-restraint packaging for the batteries, and will work with battery suppliers to improve safety warnings.

The ACCC would not confirm the names of companies represented at the meeting. Rickard said that attendees recognised the importance of a globally consistent approach.

“The meeting noted that several international industry standards would soon include button battery requirements and those could then be adopted in Australia. The ACCC will continue to work with international agencies on this important safety concern,” she said.

Kidsafe NSW executive officer Christine Erskine told SmartCompany this morning that the meeting was a welcome development in a battery safety campaign launched in 2012 by Kidsafe, the ACCC and Energizer.

“Industry has reacted quickly,” she says. “It is not easy to change the packaging, and it is the devices as well. Technology changes so fast and suddenly new products are out there and then you discover you have a problem.”

Erskine says that Kidsafe are in strong support of the industry changes proposed by the ACCC.

“We support what they have indicated – child resistant packaging and a look at the devices themselves, as children can manipulate the devices to open them and get the batteries out. (We support) the warnings on packaging to alert the community and community education.”

Erskine would like the battery industry to adopt a mandate of standard, so that any batteries produced locally or imported comply with safety guidelines.

To date, she says Energizer has shown support for industry changes, and she believed Duracell is also on board.

“It has become a major issue and people realise they need to get involved,” she says.

Attendees of the meeting will provide the ACCC written commitments and detailed plans to implement the agreed safety improvements. The ACCC has stated it will monitor the progress of change.



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