Bean bags are a comfortable addition to any household, but they can pose a serious risk to young children and babies. In the 1990s, several deaths were reported when children unzipped their bean bags and crawled inside. The children inhaled the small, fibrous pellets causing asphyxiation and death.
After their heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, bean bag chairs became less fashionable in the 1980s, only seeing a resurgence in popularity in the mid-1990s, as new, more comfortable versions began to filter onto the market. Bean bag chairs are both a comfortable and trendy product, making them a must-have for many families. The way the bag encloses the sitter makes them idea for lounging and relaxing, and this is one reason they are particularly popular with children.
Suppliers should be aware that providing the casing separately from the filling material does not mean the bean bag avoids the mandatory requirements. The Consumer Goods (Bean Bags) Safety Standard also applies to bean bag covers – within the standard, definition 7. (2) clearly stating the scope of regulation includes any bag or cover intended as a separate inner lining for a bean bag.
A Risk to Children
Bean bags constitute a real hazard to young children and babies, even if they are only intended to be used by adults. Children have been known to unzip bean bag chairs and either play with the internal filling or climb inside. This can result in suffocation or choking, and cases exist of children dying from this activity. In addition, inappropriately zippered bean bag chairs may release fibrous filling which can present a choking or asphyxiation danger to young children, even without their active engagement. Finally, young babies can suffocate if they use an improperly filled bean bag. In these instances, the baby is unable to recover by itself when it is lying face down into the chair. This is supplemented by incident data from the USA, which has shown some bean bags are hazardous to young babies when their surfaces are too soft. This allows unsuitable and incorrect positioning.
Bean Bag Recalls in Australia
An essential step in ensuring only safe products enter consumer’s homes, is the recall process. In the last three years, Australia has reported a significant number of recalls, often resulting from a lack of understanding about applicable regulations and relevant safety issues.
Figure 1 : Number of Bean bag recall from 1999 – 2017
These figures relate to all products and not just children’s bean bags. The main reason for issuing the recalls is non-compliance with requirements over labeling.
Australian Bean Bag Regulations
The mandatory requirements for bean bags are set out in Consumer Goods (Bean Bags) Safety Standard 2014, amended in 2015. This standard also covers comparable products, such as: futon mattresses, footstools, pillows, novelty cushions for children, nursing pillows, aqua bean bags for swimming pools, chairs and loungers, stable tables and pet beds. The standard encompasses any item that has an opening through which the filling can be accessed or can escape.
This standard outlines the requirements for bean bag design and construction. These include:
- All openings of a bean bag and bean bag cover intended for insertion or removing of filling material must be fitted with a child resistant slide fastener (one usual option is using a zip with its tag removed, which locks into place to prevent easy opening)
- Bean bag must not be supplied with any tag, handle or object that can facilitate movement of the child-resistant fastener
- Only slide fasteners that provide direct access to bean bag filling must be child resistant
- Baby bean bags are deemed to be unsafe for young babies and all bean bags distributed throughout Australia must carry this warning:
“WARNING: Children can suffocate if bean bag filling is swallowed or inhaled. Do not let children climb inside this bean bag. A bean bag is not a safe sleeping surface for an infant under 12 months of age.”
- The warning label must be conspicuous and fixed securely or stamped onto the item
Parents are advised to ensure that bean bags have proper locking zippers, strong linings, double stitching, and that they remain full of beads at all times. It is also recommended that young children are supervised when using bean bags.
Stakeholders should be aware that providing the casing separately from the filling material does not mean the bean bag avoids the mandatory requirements. The Consumer Goods (Bean Bags) Safety Standard also applies to bean bag covers – within the standard, definition 7. (2) clearly states the scope of regulation includes any bag or cover intended as a separate inner lining for a bean bag.
SGS Solutions: Furniture and Juvenile Product Services
SGS offers a wide range of services to help manufacturers of furniture and children’s equipment comply with regulations around the world. They provide consulting, training, product development, testing, auditing and inspection services to ensure that products comply with strict regulations. They help manufacturers demonstrate the safety and quality of furniture and juvenile products being brought to the market.
Learn more about SGS’s Furniture Services: [www.sgs.com/en/consumer-goods-retail/hardgoods/home-furnishings-and-houseware]
Learn more about SGS’s Juvenile Product Services. [www.sgs.com/en/consumer-goods-retail/toys-and-juvenile-products/juvenile-products-and-childcare-articles]
For further information VISIT or contact:
Catherine Follin- Arbelet
Global Juvenile Product Expert
Global Furniture Expert
SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. SGS is recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 95,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 2,400 offices and laboratories around the world.