Australian businesses selling toys and other products containing button batteries will have to demonstrate they can’t be pried loose under new measures designed to protect children.
The federal government has introduced mandatory safety and information standards for the at-times lethal button battery items.
Three children in Australia have died after swallowing a button battery, with at least another 44 others also suffering severe injuries stemming from ingestion or insertion since December 2017.
Under the new regulations, from mid-2022 consumer goods with button batteries will be required to have secure compartments when the power cell is intended to be replaced.
Whether the battery is designed to be changed or not, compliance testing will be made compulsory to show it is secure and cannot be easily released.
Higher-risk products must also be sold in child-resistant packaging and feature additional warnings and information to alert consumers it contains a button battery.
Button batteries are found in many common household items such as toys, remote controls, watches, digital kitchen scales, thermometers and hearing aids.
If swallowed, they can get stuck in a child’s throat and cause a chemical reaction that burns through tissue, causing death or serious injury.
“Today’s announcement is also a timely reminder in the lead up to Christmas of the dangers of button batteries and to remind parents to be alert to any that may exist in children’s presents this year,” Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar said.
The new standards were developed after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission carried out consultation with industry, health professionals, consumer advocates, retailers, suppliers and government.
Mr Sukkar said the majority of groups supported their implementation.
The consumer watchdog said Australia was the first nation in the world to have a button battery safety standard across all consumer product categories.
“The standards will enable the ACCC to take strong action to ensure that businesses sell safe products,” deputy chair Delia Rickard said.
Although businesses have been given 18 months to comply with the new standards, Ms Rickard encouraged them to make the transition as quickly as possible.