Since the introduction of skateboarding as an official sport in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Hong Kong has witnessed a wave of “skateboarding fever”, with growing popularity among young people. When purchasing a skateboard, consumers may mainly consider its appearance such as the style or pattern. However, as an extreme sport, it is a fundamental requirement that the structure of the skateboard should allow the rider to execute tricks precisely and safely. As such, weight capacity and safety level should be the key considerations when picking a product. However, when the Consumer Council examined the labelling of 16 skateboard models, 11 lacked sufficient information with no indication of the weight limit on the packaging. Tests also found that 75% (12 models) failed to comply with European safety standards, of which 5 models were structurally unsafe; 10 models failed the drop test, which simulates a jump and landing on the ground, in which the board of 5 models cracked after tests which might cause a user to lose balance and get injured. The Council also reminds consumers to wear appropriate protective gear when riding a skateboard, so as not to turn fun into tragedy.
Skateboards Classified as A and B Grades According to Weight Limit
The average consumer may not be aware that skateboards are classified into 2 weight capacity grades. According to European skateboard safety standard EN 13613, Grade A can bear weight from over 20kg to 100kg, while Grade B can bear over 20kg to 50kg. The Council tested 16 skateboard models on the market according to these 2 grades, including 6 models assessed by the laboratory as Grade A, priced from $368 to $2,580, and 10 models assessed as Grade B priced from $80 to $550. The models were tested on mechanical and physical properties such as structural safety, speed, endurance, drop and impact, and only 4 models complied with safety standards, among which 3 were Grade A models with higher weight limits, receiving an overall rating of 4.5 to 5 points. As for the lower weight-bearing Grade B models, only 1 priced at $399 passed the safety tests and received an overall rating of 5 points.
5 Models Structurally Unsafe and Might Increase Risks of Injury
According to the European skateboard safety standard EN 13613, the sides of the “deck” (i.e. the board) should be smooth with no sharp corners or protruding parts, including the “truck” (i.e. the axle) or bearings attaching the wheels not protruding beyond the deck’s width, to prevent the rider’s feet from scraping the sides of the board when standing next to it or when pushing forward with one foot on the ground. The standard also requires the deck surface to have non-slip features such as grip tape or grooves etched onto the board to increase friction between the board and the user’s outsole so as to boost anti-slip protection. Tests revealed that 5 models did not meet the structural requirements set out in the standard, posing potential safety risks. For instance, the deck of 1 Grade A model was shaped with sharp corners on both ends, and the radius of rounded corners was found to be shorter than the 10mm standard requirement, which would increase the risk of injury during use. As for the other 4 non-compliant Grade B models, 2 had wheel-fixing screws protruding beyond the board’s width which might cause injury to the user; 3 models had an excessively smooth surface, which could increase the slipping risk of riders.
10 Failed the Drop Test with Half of the Boards Cracked
Riders perform skateboard tricks by repeated jumps, which may cause wear and tear to various parts of the skateboard. The drop test simulates the impact and pressure on the board when the rider jumps according to the model’s weight limit grade. 10 models failed the drop test, among which 5 Grade B models failed to withstand the weight of the test tool and the deck body cracked. Moreover, despite the fact that the Grade A boards did not break, the bearing parts of 2 models were either broken, bent, or even snapped. 3 Grade B models showed the same results, indicating that the strength of the “trucks”, used to control and stabilise the skateboard, did not possess sufficient mechanical strength and could easily cause users to lose balance and create accidents.
Most Models Lacked Safety Guidelines on Label
However, it may be difficult for consumers to know the user weight limit of the skateboard when choosing a product. Upon reviewing the product labelling, 11 models did not have the weight limit clearly marked on the packaging, making it impossible for consumers to select a skateboard of the right grade according to their own weight, resulting in increased safety risks. For example, adults should not use skateboards that could only carry the weight of children, and people over 50kg should choose a Grade A skateboard which has a higher weight capacity. According to European safety standard, skateboards must clearly list information on the weight limit, product name or serial number, manufacturer or supplier, indicate that the product meets the safety standard, and to recommend the use of protective gear. Although currently there is no specific legislation in Hong Kong requiring weight limit labels on skateboards, all manufacturers should take the initiative to provide this critical information to protect consumers’ rights to accurate information.
3 Toy Skateboards Had No Safety Guidelines and Warnings
In recent years, more and more young children are learning to skateboard, and considering that 3 of the Grade B models in the test, which were priced between $80 and $150, were simultaneously labelled as suitable for children over 3 years old, the Council further conducted toy safety tests according to EU standards. All these 3 models were found with no small loose parts or sharp corners after the reasonable abuse test, all meeting the relevant requirements. However, the packaging labels of these 3 models failed to meet standards as they lacked relevant safety guidelines. As skateboards are ride-on toys, they should be listed with relevant warnings such as “Caution: Wear protective gear. Do not use on the road”, while parents should be reminded to accompany children and to use in safe places. All 3 toy skateboards were evidently lacking in labelling.
Consumers should note that according to the EU standard, the weight limit of toy skateboards is 20kg, generally designed for younger children aged 4 years or less, weighing less than 20kg, and should only be intended for play instead of performing tricks. Nevertheless, parents should also take note that the American Academy of Paediatrics does not recommend skateboarding for young children, because for children under 5 years of age, their fine and large muscle control and reflexes are still developing, which might increase the risk of accidents during skateboarding.
Wear Protective Gear and Play According to Ability
Reports from the United States show that each year there are thousands and even up to over 10,000 accidents related to the unsafe use of skateboards, such as collision or loss of control while sliding at high speed or performing tricks on the road. As such, consumers must be vigilant when skateboarding to ensure safety. When choosing and using a skateboard, consumers could refer to the following tips:
- Before buying, pay attention to the information on the packaging and examine the product safety, such as the weight limit; check before use the structure of the skateboard for wear and tear, and whether the screws, wheels, trucks, and deck have potential safety risks;
- Protective gear, including helmets, gloves, elbow pads, knee pads and wrist guards, is important for both beginners and experienced riders to reduce the risk of injury. Helmets should neither be too loose nor too tight, the straps should be fastened and secured to the chin. Elbow and knee pads should also be adjusted to the appropriate level of tension, otherwise they could affect the rider’s agility and the level of protection;
- Beginners should attend basic courses for elementary skills before riding in public skateparks, and should first master braking. In case of losing balance, the rider should use protective stances when falling to soften the impact, try to avoid hitting the ground with the head and arms, and try rolling to break the fall and to reduce the risk of injury;
- Assess the venue first and consider whether it is suitable for sports. Do not ride a skateboard on the road or in a crowded place, and children should have adult supervision or guidance when using a skateboard to prevent accidents.
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