Button and coin batteries can cause death if ingested. They may cause a child to choke, however the key hazard associated with these batteries is the chemical burn that occurs due to ingestion or insertion. When the battery becomes lodged and in contact with bodily fluid, a chemical reaction occurs (electrolysis), resulting in chemical burns to the body tissues that it is in close contact with. Larger batteries are more likely to become lodged in the oesophagus, posing a serious risk if it remains while the chemical reaction takes place.
Following a number of incidents and fatalities involving children, guidance – known as a Publicly Available Specification (PAS) standard, has been produced which provides standards for the safe manufacture, supply and display of batteries and products which contain them. Details are also provided on the safe provision of facilities such as recycle boxes often made available in retail shops for the disposal of batteries.
Visits will be carried out to a number of stores to assess compliance with these standards which are available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/opss-support-new-standard-for-battery-safety
The main requirements for retailers however are detailed below:
Point of sale information
Retailers should alert consumers to battery hazards by offering clear and visible safety information at the points of display in stores. Examples of notices are available at https://www.tradingstandards.uk/news-policy/campaigns/ingestion-campaign/
You should also carefully consider where you display batteries that you are offering for sale to ensure these are kept out of reach of children.
When offering batteries for sale, you should select brands of batteries that are supplied in child-resistant packaging and are marked with warnings alerting consumers to the hazards to young children.
Point of sale information – online
If you supply button and coin batteries, or consumer products that use these batteries online, battery warnings and information should be added to the online description and/or images of the product, and made available prior to the consumer committing to an online purchase.
Where you offer a recycling or disposal service you should consider whether children may be able to gain access to these. There are a number of ways retailers can help to reduce the risk and still provide disposal boxes for batteries such as:
- relocate these to a location and position so that children cannot reach or access;
- restrict access to batteries – i.e. provide a lid;
- place warning information such as posters in the location of disposal boxes;
- empty recycling boxes on a regular basis – don’t allow these to overflow;
- where possible use opaque containers – to keep the batteries out of view; and
- place recycling boxes within view of a member of staff so they can be easily monitored.
Products containing batteries
As a distributor you have a duty to supply safe products. You must act with due care to help ensure only safe products are supplied and must not supply products that, as a professional, you know (or should have presumed on the basis of information in your possession) to be dangerous.
A number of consumer goods use button and coin batteries and these must comply with the PAS standard – including, tea lights, torches, kitchen and bathroom scales and remote controls. Toys should also comply as they must meet the requirements of the Toy (Safety) Regulations 2011.
The following checks can help you to ensure the product you are supplying is safe:
- Batteries should be secured in their battery compartment in a way that a tool, such as a screwdriver or coin is needed to open it; or it needs two independent or simultaneous movements to open the battery compartment;
- products containing packaging must display the following warnings and information:
- “BATTERY WARNING: KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN”;
- “If the battery compartment (if applicable) does not close securely, stop using the product and keep it away from children”; and
- “If you think batteries might have been swallowed or placed inside any part of the body, seek immediate medical attention”;
- spare or loose batteries that are supplied with a product, and batteries that are being sold on their own must be contained in child resistant packaging, which must also be marked with safety warnings and information;
- Information on the symptoms of battery ingestion should be provided on either the packaging or an instruction leaflet that accompanies it.