Meghan’s Journal

February 27, 2019

Get on top of it before the do

Today at the International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization symposium Acting Chairman of the CPSC, Ann Marie Buerkle, spent a significant portion of her keynote speech addressing the issues surrounding furniture tip-overs. In her speech she stated:

“Lastly, I want to address the hazard presented by clothing storage units, better known as “furniture tipover.”   

Addressing the serious safety hazard posed by furniture tipovers has been, and continues to be, a priority of mine as Acting Chairman of CPSC.  I voted to publish an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) concerning the risk of injuries and death associated with clothing storage units tipping over, and under my leadership, CPSC will continue its multi-faceted effort to reduce injuries and deaths through voluntary and mandatory standard work, enforcement activity, and our Anchor It! education and awareness campaign.

Although clothing storage units are no doubt safer today than they were in years past – thanks to the work of CPSC staff, consumer advocates, parents, industry, and voluntary standards development — there is more to be done.

Therefore, today, I am challenging ALL stakeholders, including CPSC staff, to redouble their efforts to address the hidden hazard of furniture tipover more expeditiously.

First, today, our compliance staff has issued a notice to manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers of clothing storage units who sell in the United States, that children face an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death from clothing storage units that fall within the scope of the existing ASTM standard but do not meet its requirements.

Accordingly, the CPSC Office of Compliance and Field Operations will regard such clothing storage units as having a defect that could present a substantial product hazard under Section 15(a) of the CPSA, 15 U.S.C. § 2064(a).  Should we encounter such products, we will initiate an investigation and seek the corrective action we believe is appropriate.

I urge you to review your product line immediately and ensure that all clothing storage units that you manufacture, import, distribute, or sell in the United States comply with the ASTM F2057-17 standard.

Second, CPSC technical staff has embarked on a major testing program to evaluate the stability of clothing storage units currently on the market.To further elevate this issue, I requested that Michael Taylor, Mechanical Engineer in the Directorate of Laboratory Sciences, be tasked to focus solely on the issue of furniture tipovers.  The program will also evaluate new test configurations, conditions and procedures, with a view towards identifying potential improvements to the voluntary standard.

Third, because our test program will take some time, I support two immediate actions to strengthen the voluntary standard.  Accordingly, I have written to Rick Rosati, the Chairman of the ASTM subcommittee, and offered my support for the following measures:

One: increase the test weights used in section 7.2 [Stability with Load] of the standard from 50 to 60 pounds.

Two: expand the scope of the standard to include clothing storage units that are between 27 and 30 inches in height.

Previous testing at CPSC and elsewhere—particularly at Consumers Union– has shown that many clothing storage units already can withstand tipping at higher test weights. Until the results of the CPSC’s ongoing test program are digested, I believe this is a reasonable interim step to strengthen the standard and improve the stability of clothing storage units.  Adopting this approach would also end the unproductive debate about the exact age of children that the current standard was intended to protect and will give manufacturers a clear, stable performance requirement.

Testing has also shown that units below 30 inches in height are capable of meeting the performance requirements of the standard, even at higher test weights. CPSC data show that tipovers of these shorter units can also cause significant injuries to young children, even death, although the mechanism may be different.  Expanding the scope of the standard to include these units will help prevent these tragic events.

I urge the subcommittee to move ahead with these improvements as quickly as possible.

Fourth, I continue to urge companies to design safety into new clothing storage products. Innovative design is an opportunity not only to enhance your product line from a business perspective, but also to create safer products. I encourage the subcommittee to write voluntary standards with flexibility to allow for innovative designs which provide equivalent or even better safety.

Fifth, properly mounting or anchoring a TV, dresser, and other large furniture can prevent tragic tipover incidents. Anchoring devices are inexpensive, take just 5 minutes to install, and will save a child’s life. To reinforce these messages, CPSC will continue its Anchor It! campaign.

The anchoring message will only be effective, however, if consumers have ready access to furniture stabilizing kits to prevent tipovers. Therefore, I have been in contact with a number of retail leaders to request that they carry furniture stabilizing kits, in conspicuous locations, in their stores if they are not already doing so.

In addition, I will continue to ask the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to work with us to share this important message with parents. Educating consumers about this hazard must become as routine as is education about electrical outlet covers or installing safety latches on cabinets to protect children from household cleaners. Every new parent needs to be made aware of the furniture tipping hazard, what to consider when purchasing new furniture, and where to go to find anchors for existing furniture or vintage furnishings.

All stakeholders — consumer advocates, pediatric associations, parent and child advocacy organizations, senior organizations to reach grandparents, and industry– can play a role in educating caregivers on the hazard of furniture and television tip overs.

Furniture tipover is a complex problem, but it is one we must solve and we must solve it together.  Only by implementing a multi-pronged approach can we truly address this hidden hazard of furniture tipover. There is no one single solution.”

There is still much work to be done to ensure that there is follow through and that these recommended standards are adopted and implemented in the development of ASTM standards, but this is a short term solution as we work towards a more permanent long term solution for the issue of furniture tip-overs.