Garage Sales and Yard Sales

Buyer Beware, Vendor Take Care

For thousands of Canadians, yard sales and garage sales are an annual ritual. Financially, it’s a win, win situation. The seller makes some money on old and used items. The buyer gets a bargain. But with certain products, the savings may not be worth the risk.

Children’s items are probably the most popular wares at garage sales and yard sales. But older items may not be safe. For instance, they might not meet current safety regulations under the Hazardous Products Act, which covers baby gates, walkers, cribs, cradles, playpens, car seats and booster seats, strollers, walkers, lawn darts, toys and children’s sleepwear.

The Canada Safety Council does not recommend buying used car seats. Proper use and installation of these life saving devices is very low : indeed, clinics and roadside inspections are finding only about four per cent are being used according to legal and manufacturers’ specifications. In a crash, that means the car seat might not protect the child. On top of this, used seats usually do not come with instructions.

If the seat is over 10 years old it is considered unsafe, in part because plastic components deteriorate over time. Are all the parts in perfect working order? Is it the right size and fit for your child? A seat that has been in a collision must not be used again. As a potential buyer, you have no assurance of how old the seat is or what has happened to it.

Used electrical appliances are another common item at yard sales. The greatest risk in buying them is that you do not know how old they are, what abuse they have taken or the condition of the appliance’s electrical components. If you buy a used appliance, make sure it bears a CSA certification mark. If your appliance is not properly certified and causes a fire, your insurance may not cover the damage. You should also have the product checked by a qualified repair shop or a factory authorized repair depot before using it.

If you are caught selling items that fail to meet safety standards you can be held responsible if someone is injured due to a product you sold to them. The Hazardous Products Act provides for steep fines and prison sentences. Even with informal transactions such as those at yard sales, vendors must take responsibility. It is illegal to sell hazardous or unsafe items.

Ensuring safety in garage sale transactions is a two-way street. Yard sales can be a consumer’s delight. But getting something potentially dangerous to you, your family and others is not worth the savings.

Risky Children’s Products Often Found at Yard Sales

Cribs

Cribs made before September 1986 don’t meet current safety standards. The mattress support in them, suspended by hooks, is not secure and can collapse easily. These cribs cannot be fixed to meet the standard and must not be sold or given away.

Strollers

Strollers manufactured before 1985 may not meet current standards. Choose one that is both sturdy and safe. The stroller must match the size and age of the child who will use it, and be sturdy enough to support the child and not be easily tipped.

Walkers

Baby walkers were banned from importation, advertising and sale in Canada as of April 2004.

Playpens

In 1976, the government introduced playpen regulations. Mesh-sided playpens must be made of mosquito-type netting with small holes so that fingers and little buttons cannot get through. Current standards also prohibit the use of more than two castors or wheels, to prevent the playpen from moving too much.

Baby Barriers

Since 1990, new regulations have made expansion gates safer. Accordion-style baby gates that are made of wood or hard plastic and have diamond-shaped openings and large V’s at the top can no longer be sold in Canada; children can get caught in the openings and strangle themselves.

Car Seats

All car seats must meet the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard and carry a compliance label (stating the size of the child for which the seat is designed) on the side, rear or bottom of the seat. Instructions must be provided on how the seat is to be installed. Seats over 10 years old are generally regarded as no longer safe.

Sleepwear

Regulations on the flammability of children’s sleepwear up to size 14X were strengthened in 1987. Sleepwear should be made of nylon or polyester. Cotton and cotton-blend fabrics will catch fire and burn more quickly than most synthetics.

Toys

In 1970, the Hazardous Products Act introduced safety standards for toys. Toys allowed to be sold in Canada are subject to flammability, electrical and thermal risk and toxicological testing. But not all toys found in garage sales are less than 31 years old. Despite the regulations, others are no longer without risk. Toys that are in poor repair or broken are clearly unsafe. Lawn darts with elongated tips are dangerous and can no longer be sold.

Jewellery

Jewellery designed for children and containing lead should not be sold as lead is a known toxic metal which can cause adverse mental and behavioral development.