New restrictions are coming on playpens and their accessories

Playpens have changed a lot in the past 20 years. Health Canada says many new features come with risks and we need stronger regulations to keep babies safe.
Baby lying in a playpen

Photo: iStockphoto

That deluxe playpen with a change table and a bassinet that you find super convenient and great for multi-tasking? Health Canada says it might not be so safe. After making drop-side cribs illegal in 2016, Health Canada has set its sights on playpens, suggesting Canada needs new regulations to limit dangers in the units, particularly where those attachable change tables and bassinets are concerned.

Since 1991, when the most recent regulations were put in place, playpens have evolved to have all kinds of special bells and whistles that are designed to make parents’ lives easier. But Health Canada says all those attachable accessories have introduced new risks, and we need to protect against things like strangulation from collapsed side rails, suffocation caused by angled mattress pads, and entrapment in accessories and openings in the sides of the playpen.

Part of the reason for the changes? Between 1990 and 2015, Health Canada’s Consumer Product Safety Directorate got 156 reports of playpen-related incidents, including 10 deaths and one serious injury. Four of those deaths involved a playpen accessory.

Of course, how you use a playpen is vitally important. Health Canada stresses that playpens are not meant for unsupervised sleep and reminds parents that the safest place for babies to sleep is in a crib, cradle or bassinet. But Jane Philpott, minister of health, also says, “When parents purchase a playpen, they should have the confidence that it will provide a safe environment for their child. The proposed changes will further strengthen safety requirements for these products in order to better protect infants and young children.”

The proposed playpen regulations will require additional testing to ensure that the units don’t fold or collapse unintentionally, and include additional requirements to ensure the safety of accessories like bassinets. They will focus on limiting the size of openings, which little ones can be trapped within; ensuring accessories can’t easily be unfastened (at snaps or zippers); limiting gaps at the edge of mattress pads to 30 mm to prevent kids from falling into them; limiting the angle of sleep surfaces to a maximum of seven degrees to prevent infants from rolling into a corner where they can’t breathe; including warnings about placing playpens away from materials that could lead to strangulation and keeping them free of bedding; requiring safe latch mechanisms; meeting more stringent stability requirements; eliminating features that project off the playpen that clothing could be caught on; increasing the minimum height of the sides of playpens and their bassinet attachments; making sleep accessories and change pads stronger to hold more weight; and limiting playpens to a maximum of two wheels to keep them stationary.

The new regulations haven’t gone through yet, though. And until June 6, the government is looking for your feedback, so give Health Canada a call if you feel strongly about the issue or have a playpen incident to share.

Read more:
Drop-side cribs are now officially illegal
What you need to know about the new safe sleep guidelines for babies
Why selling baby items online can put you at risk

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