There has been much discussion about how to work with babywearing groups and libraries in a way that best supports valuable peer-to-peer education and outreach while also reducing liability to manufacturers, retailers and educators alike. BCIA has discussed the issues with manufacturers, retailers, educators and international sling library/group leaders within the industry. We have also consulted with a number of insurance brokers/experts and legal counsel to put together the following guidelines. The following information are general guidelines only and are not intended as legal advice.

Manufacturer Guidelines

Manufacturers are frequently asked to donate or discount carriers for babywearing groups, sling libraries and educator demos and many give generously. However groups and libraries operate with varying levels of formality which can possibly pose as an increased liability to manufacturers. Below are a few options to consider when analysing the risks and benefits to your business.

  1. Manufacturers may wish to work with learning libraries only and stipulate that donated/discounted carriers are only to be used for educational demonstration purposes.

Sample wording:

“This carrier donation/discount is intended for demonstration and teaching purposes only. (Manufacturer/Retailer) does not condone any type of rental, lending or resale program connected to this product.”

Manufacturers will want to employ some sort of contract/tracking system, either a signed and returned agreement between the company and entity requesting the donation/discount, or an online checked agreement integrated into website or email.

  1. Manufacturers may wish to work with lending libraries by ensuring that the following terms and conditions are met in a contract between the parties involved. These are the best practice guidelines that could be followed if asked to donate or offer discounted product to a lending library whose intention is to make it available for rent to the public and/or their members. This list is based on advice from several insurance brokers and legal counsel.

A contract between the manufacturer and the organization that runs the lending library shall stipulate the following:

  • the library is an officially incorporated legal entity or otherwise registered LLC or non-profit organization of the country in which it operates and also adheres to any applicable state or local ordinances. Refer to the small business resources in your area for the legal business options that are best practice in your state/province/country;
  • the library has a general liability insurance policy and can provide a certificate of insurance;
  • the library has documented standard procedures that are followed by all administrators of the library that include:
    • visual inspection of all carriers upon check-out, and again immediately upon return;
    • proper storage of carriers when not checked out;
    • guidelines for administrators on what constitutes wear that should precipitate the item’s removal from circulation;
    • the inclusion of any and all instructional materials that belong to the product with each check-out;
    • ideally, automatic retirement from the library after 5 years of use or 104 total weeks of rental.

Verify with your broker to determine what your own policy stipulates. Some insurers may advise the inclusion of the following clauses as well:

  • the library shall hold harmless the manufacturer for errors and omissions of the library or its administrators that result in harm to the borrower in conjunction with the manufacturer’s product;
  • the library shall provide a waiver of subrogation and the library’s policy shall be primary and non-contributory.
  1. If the babywearing group/library has been unable to secure an insurance policy manufacturers should assess donation/discount requests on a case by case basis using the guidelines above to determine if the library in question is run on sound policies and practices. In all cases, manufacturers may wish to request a copy of the library’s policies and procedures including the membership agreement between the library and its users.

Retailer Guidelines

Retailers are an important component in both professional and peer-to-peer education. Some retailers offer carrier rental programs or ‘try before you buy’ options. Some offer in-store teaching space to local babywearing groups.

If you operate a carrier rental or try before you buy program:

  • Retailers should clarify with their insurance broker whether a rental program is covered under their existing policy. Many who have looked into this further have found that it increases premium costs considerably or is not covered. Retailers will have to assess on a store-by-store basis if a rental program is feasible.
  • Are the manufacturers of the products being rented aware of this practice? Some manufacturers may have additional insurance or contract stipulations for product being used in a rental capacity.

Is the carrier rental program operated on sound policies and procedures?

  • visual inspection of all carriers upon check-out, and again immediately upon return:
    • buckles are secure with no cracks, breaks or missing pieces
    • webbing and safety elastic is attached with no rips or frays
    • carrier stitching is secure, no rips, tears, holes or obvious wear and tear
    • no aftermarket repairs have been made, ie. off-label replacement buckles, reinforcing stitching areas etc. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer for repair/replacement guidance.
  • proper storage of carriers when not checked out;
  • what constitutes wear that should precipitate the item’s removal from circulation;
  • the inclusion of any and all instructional materials that belong to the product with each check-out;
  • ideally, automatic retirement from the library after 5 years of use or 104 total weeks of rental.

If you host meetings in your store space and/or participate in your local babywearing group:

  • Does your insurance policy cover this type of event in your store space?
  • Is the babywearing group/library operated on sound principles and best practice?
  • Are you familiar with the babywearing group’s membership agreement, operating policies and general liability insurance coverage, if applicable?  

Library/Group Leader Guidelines

Babywearing groups, lending and learning libraries and sling libraries operate around the world in a variety of ways, under different levels of formality. Some function in a very casual peer-to-peer education format within a single community. Others have numerous chapters, an overarching parent organization and more formal structure. Others work as registered businesses or non-profit organizations. Insurance and business registration options vary widely by country. If a group or library is operating as a business in any format, for example, through the collection of funds for membership dues, carrier hire fees and/or the solicitation of donations, due diligence should be exercised regarding policies and procedures, sound business practices and liability.

  • Does the group have a general liability insurance policy? A certificate of insurance should be made available to volunteer educators and manufacturers from whom donations or discounts are secured. If there are questions about the scope of coverage, seek clarification with the policyholder or insurance broker.
  • Request a certificate of insurance from any manufacturer you work with and retain it in your files.
  • Are carriers in the library compliant with current regulations in your country of business? It is reasonable to ask for this information from manufacturers (for ex. a US-based library could keep a copy of the manufacturer’s Children’s Product Certificate on file)
  • Does the library have a formal inspection policy with applicable record keeping? Carriers brought into the library shall be inspected when new, before a carrier is rented out and upon its return. Both the leader and the member renting said carrier will sign off on the condition of the carrier. Carriers shall be inspected to ensure that:
    • buckles are secure with no cracks, breaks or missing pieces
    • webbing and safety elastic is attached with no rips or frays
    • carrier stitching is secure, no rips, tears, holes or obvious wear and tear
  • Carriers are rented out with manufacturer instructions included (copies could be made or instructions could be laminated to reduce wear and tear)
  • Members are made aware of proper care and washing instructions (or the library has said that they will manage washing and maintenance)
  • Carriers included in the babywearing library have known history- carriers should be purchased new or donated via the manufacturer or reputable retailer
  • Warranty information, paperwork and product registration details (if applicable) are kept on file. If in the US, register carriers (this can be done online quickly and simply) in order to be notified of recalls
  • Carriers are retired regularly, for ex. after 5 years or 104 total weeks of rental. Note: it may be worth contacting the manufacturer to see if a small discount is available on a replacement carrier. Some manufacturers offer carrier recycling programs to help ensure carriers in libraries are current models in good condition.

Learning Libraries

Where carriers can be tried on on-site but not rented or borrowed, as a general rule carry less risk from a liability standpoint because the carrier is not leaving the premises, is not subjected to the same wear and tear as rental carriers and it’s use pattern is known. In this regard, learning library carriers function more similarly to retail store demo carriers. The above listed best practice guidelines should be adhered to, where carriers are regularly inspected, stored properly, and compliant with current regulations in your country of business.

Conclusion

These guidelines are broadly drawn so as to be useful to our international community. While insurance for all is strongly recommended, it is not generally legally required and in some markets is not obtainable. All manufacturers, retailers and babywearing groups can exercise due diligence by:

  • adhering to best practice guidelines (as outlined in each section above)
  • demonstrating sound and consistent organizational policies and procedures
  • maintaining good standing with relevant industry bodies including schools of certification and training, industry trade organizations etc.
  • sound business practices and organizational structure.  

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