Halloween 2020 – Changed Days, Same Safety Considerations

Halloween 2020 is set to look and feel a lot different to previous years. With COVID-19 restrictions meaning limited contact with others and going door-to-door ‘trick or treating’ not being a viable option, many are choosing to spend the holiday at home, or out in the community at socially distanced events.

With recent media coverage suggesting that ‘Halloween is cancelled’, more and more people are questioning what they can do with their children as an alternative to the usual knocking-of-doors and candy collection.

Community projects across Scotland have taken the opportunity to look at alternative ways of celebrating the time of year.

Community Spirit

The lead up to Halloween has seen several community projects flourish, with inventive scarecrow trails and festivals underway that are bringing members of communities together to create storylines and scenes through the making of scarecrows.

Kilmacolm Girl Guiding have chosen to do things slightly differently, with the building of Scarecrows as part of the Kilmacolm Village Scarecrow Trail, run by St Columba’s Junior School situated in the village.

Their ‘Minions’ themed hay bale scarecrows will be situated in the village for everyone to see on Halloween as they follow the Scarecrow Trail around the village.

St Columba’s School Scarecrow Trail is the first event of its kind in the village and will take place on Saturday the 31st of October. The entire village is set to be transformed into a magical trail of scarecrows, with several different characters to be spotted throughout the trail.

Children will be given mystery maps to follow and are encouraged to dress for the occasion. It is Halloween after all!

Spooky Stories in a new format

Janice O’Connor is a Community Coordinator for the Corra Foundation at Castlehill in West Dunbartonshire. As part of the community Halloween celebrations in Castlehill, they have arranged a Pumpkin Trail Scavenger Hunt, where ten pumpkins will be hidden round the two communities, allowing local residents to dress up and head out for socially-distanced hi-jinks with their neighbours and families.

“It’s a chance for everyone in the community to get involved and for the kids to win a prize at the end. It’s an opportunity for everyone to dress up and explore their community in a way that they wouldn’t have been able to do previously”.

In addition to this, families will be offered free pumpkins to carve and enter a carving competition, with the chance of winning a £30 Just Eat Voucher.

The finale of the Halloween festivities will be an online storytelling event at night. This will be broadcast on the ‘Castlehill Our Community’ page through Facebook Live, with hopes that that members of the community will engage with this from home.

Regardless of the different ways that families are choosing to celebrate Halloween this year, safety considerations should be made of the costumes that we are purchasing to ensure that we are keeping our little ones safe.

Product Safety

Members of the public choosing to dress up with their children this Halloween face differences in the way they celebrate the season, but the principles relating to the safety of costumes is the same. With bargains available online and in supermarkets and discount stores, questions need to be asked about the quality of the costumes we are buying for our children.

One consumer approached to discuss her concerns over a latex-based product purchased through an online marketplace.

Elizabeth Irwin purchased a liquid latex product for costume effect scars to use as part of her daughter’s spooky Halloween costume. The product arrived without a label, and when she contacted the company, was sent a PDF with information about the product, including the proviso to ‘use in a well-ventilated area’.

She contacted, as she believed that the product was not fit for purpose and was questioning the high ammonia content and how safe this would be for her daughter’s skin.

“We tested a small patch on my daughters’ skin. She advised that it was slightly itchy, but this may not have been a reaction to the product. The product dried and turned a brownish colour”.

Ms Irwin’s son is a mechanic and upon inspection of the product, said he believed the solution to be something normally used for puncture repairs on car tyres. Ms Irwin contacted the retailer to highlight her concerns and was refunded for the product.

Ms Irwin’s situation highlights the concerns faced by many parents in relation to product safety, but she is not alone.

RoSPA Recommendations

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) set out the mandatory regulations that are in place to control the fire performance of the fabrics used in nightwear and toys, including compulsory labelling to make consumers more aware of potential dangers.

The Nightwear (Safety) Regulations 1985, and The Toy Safety Directive 2009/48/EC/ Toy Safety Regulations 2011 set out these mandatory regulations, however the British Retail Consortium (BRC), have worked with the British Standards Technical Committee to approach CEN with a view to reviewing the existing standards in place.

Development of revised European Standards takes time, and in the meantime, the BRC (Supported by RoSPA) have introduced two voluntary codes of practice to enhance the safety of children’s dress-up clothing, looking at; additional flammability labelling of children’s dress-up and; methods of testing for the flammability safety of children’s dress up.

These codes of practice highlight the considerations that businesses selling children’s dress-up and Halloween costumes should make to ensure that the products being supplied are of a high quality and comply with their recommendations.

The key messages are the same in relation to children’s dress up clothes and Halloween costumes: ensure that children are protected, and that risks are minimised before they don their superhero masks and princess ensemble.

Halloween Safety – Remember rule of ‘I.M.S.A.F.E’

When it comes to Halloween, the way we celebrate might be different, but safety rules are the same. By following the rule of ‘I.M.S.A.F.E’, parents can ensure that they reduce the risks associated with Halloween.

In – Sight – Remember to keep an eye on children, in the home as well as when out and about. Candles and hanging decorations can be fire hazards, as well as increasing the risk of a trip or fall.

Materials – Check that costume materials are flame-resistant and there is a visible CE Mark. Ill-fitting and loose / draping costumes can catch fire easily. By ensuring the material is flame-resistant and does not flap around, you can minimise the risk of them catching fire.

Shoes – Ensure that shoes are suitably fitting and comfortable – high-heeled and ill-fitting shoes can cause trip hazards, and with more candles about, the fire risk is real.

Accessories and Masks – Make sure that accessories for costumes are safe, with no sharp edges. Masks should fit, and like the materials of the costume, should be flame-resistant.

Face paints / Makeup – Ensure that face paints and makeup are non-toxic. By reading the label we can ensure that we are not putting something on children’s skin that could irritate them or cause lasting damage. Perform a small patch test on the back of the hand to ensure that there are no allergies to the makeup / paint.

Extra Layers – Ensure that children wear clothing underneath the costume. By wearing an extra layer under the costume (such as a woollen jumper or jeans), there will be a barrier between the costume and your child’s skin should the costume catch on fire.

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