Parents warned over dangerous ‘button’ batteries after Scots toddler’s tragic death

Parents have been warned about battery safety following the tragic death of a toddler last year.

Hugh McMahon, from Motherwell, tragically died after swallowing a button-type battery on Christmas Eve 2021.

North Lanarkshire Council has issued safety advice for children after the 17-month-old boy fought for his life in hospital before sadly passing away on Boxing Day.

Many families might not know the potential risks of button or coin batteries to children.

The batteries – used in gadgets and toys – pose huge dangers if they fall in the hands of little ones.

North Lanarkshire Council’s Trading Standards service is supporting an awareness campaign about the potential dangers of these batteries.

The campaign, run by the Office for Product Safety and Standards, provides advice for parents.

“The tragic death of Hugh McMahon from Motherwell highlights the dangers of these small batteries being picked up and swallowed by children,” said Paul Bannister, Protective Services Manager.

“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.”

Here is some important guidance courtesy of North Lanarkshire Council.

How to keep children safe from batteries

Parents are advised to secure battery compartments on gadgets and toys

  • Store button batteries out of children’s reach and 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. 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. If possible, take the packaging, toy or gadget to help staff identify the battery.

The council’s Trading Standards service identified safety concerns about products in the market, including flameless tea lights and bathroom scales without a secured battery compartment, as the packaging did not have a warning that small cell batteries are a danger if ingested.

Another item, the Orsen LCD writing tablet doodle board available 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 were 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.

“Trading Standards regularly monitor products on sale in the UK to ensure they meet the stringent safety regulations in place,” Paul Bannister explained.

“Any problems with products are highlighted to the Office for Product Safety and Standards which can order unsafe products to be recalled from sale to protect the safety of consumers.”

Earlier this month, Smiggle issued a recall following concern the battery compartment of a watch slap band was not secure.

Anyone with concerns about the safety of a product they’ve purchased can report it to North Lanarkshire Council’s Trading Standards Service through Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or at

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

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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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