SAFETY TESTS: EUROPEAN UNION

Most products that want to sell in the European Union (plus United Kingdom, Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein, and Turkey) must follow the European Commission CE marking directives.  These directives make sure your product conforms with health, safety, and environmental protection standards.  If you comply, you can affix the CE marking on your product.  The CE marking acts like your product’s passport, making importing to these countries much easier. 

The CE marking was first introduced in Directive 93/68/EEC back in 1993.  This directive amended many other directives.  It basically said “hey, we’re all now going to be using this special mark.”

 

There are currently twenty-five CE marking directives.  If your product is covered by one of those directives, you must follow that directive to be sold in the European Union.  Nonnegotiable.  And toys have a directive all to themselves.

 

Toys specifically fall under Directive 2009/48/EC (and then there’s Standard EN71 that goes into even more detail).  Let’s see what they consider a toy:

 

This Directive shall apply to products designed or intended, whether or not exclusively, for use in play by children under 14 years of age.

 

Unlike the United States, if you intend for children to use your product, you must follow the directive.  Doesn’t matter if it’s intended for all ages.

So for board gaming, once again most independent publishers think if you label your game Age 14+ you can avoid conducting safety tests.  I guess it’s semi-true, if you didn’t intend for someone under fourteen to play your game.  But I’m guessing you want as big an audience as possible and don’t want to scare away potential customers with an age label.  Also, and most importantly:

 

Just because you label your game Age 14+ doesn’t mean you can use the CE marking.  The mark only applies to those twenty-five directives.  If you claim to not be a toy (because you are above the age limit) then you are not within the scope of the directive, and you cannot affix the CE marking to your product.  It’s illegal.  A bunch of you independent board game designers all write Age 14+ and then slap on the CE mark.  You have all committed a crime.  You are all now criminals.  Congratulations.  (I did it too on my first game.  I call top bunk.)  To repeat, you only get the mark if you adhere to the standards that the mark represents.

 

If you’re not following one of the twenty-five CE marking directives, then by default you’re following the General Product Safety Directive (Directive 2001/95/EC).  If you fall under the General Product Safety Directive you cannot apply the CE marking.  General products are subject to each nation’s individual laws and preferences.  Your products might get stopped and checked more because you don’t have the CE mark acting as your passport.  You cannot escape government legislation.  You will be held to some set of standards no matter what, so just use the CE standards.

 

The good thing is you can conduct the CE test yourself.  You don’t need to send your product to some lab.  Testing is fairly simple if your game is just cardboard and plastic.  But you might have other issues.  If your game emits sound (say you have a buzzer), that noise must be below a certain decibel level.  If you don't want to go the self-certify route, your manufacturer most likely has relationships with approved testing companies.  My manufacturer did, and the quote was $750 for a game the size of Plunder: A Pirate's Life.  That's a lot cheaper than the quotes I was receiving from American companies ($1500).

 

Standard EN71 is divided into fourteen sections.  With a board game, the main sections you will be dealing with are:

EN71-1 Mechanical and Physical Properties

EN71-2 Flammability

EN71-3 Migration of Certain Elements

EN71-1 Mechanical and Physical Properties

This European Standard specifies requirements for mechanical and physical properties of toys. To make things easier, I’d scan the document's table of contents and see if any headlines apply to your product.  You’ll see things like:

- Projectiles

- Hinges

- Aquatic toys

- Toys intended to bear the mass of the child

For your average board game, there really isn’t anything that would apply.  But if there is, just follow their requirements.

 

EN71-2 Flammability

This European Standard specifies flammable materials that are prohibited in all toys, and requirements concerning flammability of certain toys when they are subjected to a small source of ignition.

 

So to conduct a flammability test you basically put a flame to your product and see what happens.  Does it catch fire instantly?  How fast does the flame spread?  If the flame is extinguished does the product continue to burn?

 

Provided your product doesn’t have the same behavioral properties as celluloid, you should pass just fine.

 

EN71-3 Migration of Certain Elements

This European Standard specifies requirements for the migration of aluminum, antimony, arsenic, barium, boron, cadmium, chromium (III), chromium (VI), cobalt, copper, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, selenium, strontium, tin, organic tin and zinc from toy materials and from parts of toys.  Migration just means the transferring of chemicals.  What happens if a kid sucks on one your components?  Will they absorb some sort of toxin?

 

The tests involved in this standard are divided into three categories:

Category I:               Dry, brittle, powder like or pliable material.

Category II:              Liquid or sticky materials.

Category III:            Scraped-off materials.

Mainly everything in a board game is within Category III:

- Coats of paint and varnish

- Paper and paper board

- Glass, ceramic, metallic materials

- Wood, leather, fiber board, hard board

To test all this crap you have to get super scientific.  They spell out what to do, but your average person can't conduct this set of tests.  It would not surprise me if most small businesses never fully conduct this set of tests.  They probably just accept that their manufacture knows not to include any materials that can easily decompose, migrate, and cause harm.  I'm not saying don't conduct the tests, but as we established earlier, many ignorant publishers already use the CE marking when they never conducted any tests (because they thought being Age 14+ is a loophole) and nothing bad ever seems to happen to them.  So the decision is up to you. 

Packaging materials are not considered to be part of the toy unless they have intended play value.

Declaration of Conformity

After you’ve conducted and passed all your CE tests, you’ll need to create a Declaration of Conformity.  The Declaration of Conformity is the document officially certifying that your product fulfils the essential requirements in the applicable CE directives.  This certificate will display all the directives and standards you passed.  You do not need to file this document with government, just have it ready should they ask to see it.

 

This is a self-made document.  There is no single, proper format.  You can find examples online to imitate.  But Directive 2009/48/EC says: 

 

The EC Declaration of Conformity shall as a minimum contain the elements specified in Annex III:

  1. No ... (unique identification of the toy(s)).

  2. Name and address of the manufacturer or his authorised representative.

  3. This declaration of conformity is issued under the sole responsibility of the manufacturer.

  4. Object of the declaration (identification of toy allowing traceability). It shall include a colour image of sufficient clarity to enable the identification of the toy.

  5. The object of the declaration described in point 4 is in conformity with the relevant Community harmonisation on legislation.

  6. References to the relevant harmonised standards used, or references to the specifications in relation to which conformity is declared.

  7. Where applicable: the notified body ... (name, number) ... performed ... (description of intervention) ... and issued the certificate.

  8. Additional information: Signed for and on behalf of: (place and date of issue) (name, function)(signature)

Technical File

After you’ve conducted and passed all your CE tests, you’ll need to create a Technical File (sometimes called Technical Documentation).  The Declaration of Conformity says you passed the test, and the Technical File says how you passed.  The Technical File is a comprehensive description of all the steps a product has taken to comply with the CE requirements, basically the actual test results.  You do not need to file this document with government, just have it ready should they ask to see it.

 

This is a self-made document.  There is no single, proper format.  You can find examples online to imitate.  But Directive 2009/48/EC says:   

 

The Technical Documentation shall contain all relevant data or details of the means used by the manufacturer to ensure that toys comply with the requirements set out in Article 10 and Annex II. It shall, in particular, contain the documents listed in Annex IV:

  1. A detailed description of the design and manufacture, including a list of components and materials used in the toy as well as the safety data sheets on chemicals used, to be obtained from the chemical suppliers.

  2. The safety assessment(s) carried out in accordance with Article 18.

  3. A description of the conformity assessment procedure followed.

  4. A copy of the EC declaration of conformity.

  5. The addresses of the places of manufacture and storage.

  6. Copies of documents that the manufacturer has submitted to a notified body, if involved.

  7. Test reports and description of the means whereby the manufacturer ensured conformity of production with the harmonised standards, if the manufacturer followed the internal production control procedure referred to in Article 19(2).

  8. A copy of the EC-type examination certificate, a description of the means whereby the manufacturer ensured conformity of the production with the product type as described in the EC-type examination certificate, and copies of the documents that the manufacturer submitted to the notified body, if the manufacturer submitted the toy to EC-type examination and followed the conformity to type procedure referred to in Article 19(3).

Noteworthy Information and Recommendations

 

Directive 2009/48/EC Article 4:

Manufacturers shall keep the technical documentation and the EC declaration of conformity for a period of 10 years after the toy has been placed on the market.

           

Manufacturers shall ensure that procedures are in place for series production to remain in conformity.  Changes in toy design or characteristics and changes in the harmonised standards by reference to which conformity of a toy is declared shall be adequately taken into account.

 

When deemed appropriate with regard to the risks presented by a toy, manufacturers shall, to protect the health and safety of consumers, carry out sample testing of marketed toys, inves­tigate, and, if necessary, keep a register of complaints, of non- conforming toys and toy recalls, and shall keep distributors informed of any such monitoring.

 

Manufacturers shall ensure that the toy is accompanied by instructions and safety information in a language or languages easily understood by consumers, as determined by the Member State concerned.

 

Manufacturers shall, further to a reasoned request from a competent national authority, provide that authority with all the information and documentation necessary to demonstrate the conformity of the toy, in a language easily understood by that authority.  They shall cooperate with that authority, at its request, as regards any action taken to eliminate the risks posed by toys which they have placed on the market.