WASHINGTON — Evenflo Co. Inc. will supply free upgrades to plastic hinges for portable playpen models that have collapsed and killed two children, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced June 25.
A total of 11 children have been killed in accidents involving playpens in the last five years, according to CPSC spokesman Ken Giles. CPSC has reached agreements with two other firms making similar products.
Evenflo, based in Piqua, Ohio, is offering free hinge covers to all 1.2 million owners of three models of its play yards, the Happy Camper, Happy Cabana and Kiddie Camper, according to a joint news release from the CPSC and the company.
The models can collapse when the hinges are not installed properly, trapping children in a ``V'' formed by the top rails. The hinge covers can be put on only when the device is assembled correctly and the top rail is locked into place, Giles said. The playpens have no ``visual cue'' that the top rail needs to lock, he said.
Evenflo spokesman Mark Semer said the company does not believe there is a design problem. The devices have clear, highlighted instructions, including a multicolored label added after the first death, and exposed hinges to emphasize to the caregiver that the hinge covers need to be used, he said.
``The CPSC agrees with us that the hinge covers will take care of the problem,'' Semer said.
The design of the product, and not the plastic, can make it fold and trap children, accounting for two of the deaths with Evenflo products, Giles said. An infant also died after being placed in a broken Evenflo play yard.
Giles said future models will have a top rail that automatically locks. ``The fact that three children have died ... suggests a pattern of defect that needs to be corrected,'' Giles said.
``It is not folding because plastic is breaking,'' Giles said. ``It is folding because people are not successfully locking it.''
Breaking plastic hinges are, however, giving children cuts and bruises from the product, he said. When the plastic hinges break, they expose a sharp edge that has injured 107 children, according to CPSC.
The firm urged consumers to install the hinges properly by fully rotating them into place, and to inspect them regularly and avoid sitting or leaning on the rails. The company has replaced 6,000 Happy Camper models for hinge-related problems in the past eight years, CPSC said.