The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is re-issuing its guidance about baby bath seats – and re-evaluating the safety warnings that accompany them – following discussions among parents prompted by the latest tragedy.
An inquest into the death of a nine-month-old girl – who drowned after slipping out of a bath seat while left unattended – took place in Gloucester this week, and the coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death.
RoSPA is re-issuing its advice because of ongoing confusion about whether children can be left unattended in bath seats.
Peter Cornall, RoSPA head of leisure safety, said:, “We rarely advise parents to ‘never’ do something. But when it comes to baths, the advice has to be: never leave babies and young children unattended. This advice stands whether or not you are using a bath seat, as a way of preventing both drowning and scalds.
“Between 2003 and 2007, ten children aged two-years-old or under drowned accidentally in the bath in the UK. Four of these incidents involved a bath seat.
“A child can drown in a bath very quickly and quietly. We have heard of many tragic cases in which a parent or carer has gone to get a towel or to answer the door or telephone and their child has drowned in the time they were away. In some cases, parents had thought a bath seat would hold their child securely while they were out of the room, but we cannot overstate the fact that seats must not be used in this way – not even for just a moment.”
In 2003, following a number of bath seat-related drownings, RoSPA called for notices urging parents to never leave children unattended in the bath to be displayed prominently where the items were on sale and on bath seat packaging.
And in 2005, RoSPA and other safety experts published the findings of research into whether bath seats provided a false reassurance to parents. The study found that a baby drowning after being placed in a bath seat was a rare but definite cause of death. It said it was unclear whether putting a baby in a bath seat represented an increased risk of drowning, but concluded that bath seats did appear to give a false sense of security, even if this was not encouraged by manufacturers.
RoSPA will now investigate whether its guidance about warning messages has been heeded, and whether such messages are read and understood by parents and carers.
The European Commission is currently in the process of updating safety standards for a range of child care products, including baby bath seats, for which there is currently no EU standard.
Peter Cornall said, “Even with a new standard, parental supervision is fundamental. We must avoid a situation in which better-designed products lead to an even greater sense of false reassurance. No matter what attempts are made to make the design safer, if parents are there when the seat tips over or the child clambers out, they can do something about it – they can’t if they’re not there.”