Lanarkshire Trading Standards body issue advice to parents on coin batteries following death of toddler

North Lanarkshire Council is issuing safety advice to parents on button and coin batteries in gadgets and toys.

This follows the tragic death of 17-month-old Hugh McMahon who accidentally swallowed a button type battery on Christmas Eve.

The tot was rushed to hospital where medics fought to save his life, but sadly the ingestion had done too much to little Hugh’s body and the toddler passed away in his parents’ arms on Boxing Day.

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His family, and others whose child has died or suffered a serious injury, were not aware of the potential risks of the button or coin batteries.

Now NLC’s Trading Standards service is supporting an awareness campaign by the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS).

Paul Bannister from NLC Trading Standards told us: “The tragic death of Hugh McMahon from Motherwell highlights the dangers of these small batteries being picked up and swallowed by children.

North Lanarkshire Trading Standards manager Paul Bannister

“Many toys and gadgets contain button or coin cell types of battery, so it is vital that people follow the safety advice to ensure they are used safely, particularly by ensuring the battery compartment is closely securely and the batteries are safely and environmentally disposed of after use, for example at a council household waste recycling centre.”

The OPSS campaign highlights the potential dangers of these batteries and provides advice for parents:

It asks that button batteries are stored out of children’s reach and advises to be careful when opening multi-packs to avoid any falling on the floor and being picked up by children.

Make sure the battery compartment on a gadget or toy is securely closed.

If possible, take the packaging, toy or gadget to help staff identify the battery.

Under product safety regulations, button and coin battery compartments on all consumer products must be designed to reduce the possibility of inadvertent removal by vulnerable people, such as children.

Even ‘flat’ batteries hold enough charge to be dangerous. Store ‘flat’ batteries well out of reach of children.

Talk to older children about the potential dangers, explaining why they shouldn’t play with button batteries or give them to younger children.

If you think a child has swallowed a battery, take them immediately to A&E or call 999 for an ambulance.

The council’s Trading Standards service has identified safety concerns about products on sale in the area: flameless tea lights and bathroom scales which did not have a secured battery compartment and the packaging did not have a warning that small cell batteries are a danger if ingested.

An Orsen LCD writing table doodle board, on sale on Amazon, was supplied with a spare, loose coin cell battery in the packaging.

As a result of the service’s actions, the tea lights and doodle board have been recalled and information has been circulated to all councils to raise awareness and ensure stocks are no longer on sale.

The manufacturer of the scales has been informed and asked to take action to address the issue.

In addition, two retailers have agreed to withdraw and review their in-store battery disposal units after the service identified they could be easily accessible by a child.

Mr Bannister added: “We regularly monitor products on sale in the UK to ensure they meet the stringent safety regulations in place.

“Any problems with products are highlighted to the OPSS which can order unsafe products to be recalled from sale to protect the safety of consumers.”

If anyone has concerns about the safety of a product they have purchased, they can report it to NLC’s Trading Standards Service through Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or at their website.

More information on button batteries is available from the Child Accident Prevention Trust online.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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