WASHINGTON DC- The American Home Furnishings Alliance has responded to a standard for clothing storage furniture that was published today, February 3, in the Federal Register.
The proposed mandatory safety standard will now be subject to a 75-day comment period on the 1,100-page document, bringing it closer to adoption by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
The AHFA raised several major concerns about the proposed rule, which the CPSC published in July 2021. The agency announced its intention to draft the rule in November 2017 and has spent the past three and a half years conducting extensive research on the tip. on incidents and analysis of test options to ensure that clothing storage cabinets are more stable when young children interact with them.
AHFA and its member companies support a mandatory furniture stability standard to help prevent tip-overs, which have resulted in the deaths of 166 children 3 or younger since 2000, according to CPSC statistics as reported by AFHA .
A voluntary standard to address this hazard was developed in 2000 and has since been updated five times in response to new product trends and changing consumer behavior.
“In 22 years, only one incident is known to have involved furniture that the manufacturer determined met the voluntary standard,” said AHFA CEO Andy Counts.
However, injuries and fatalities from non-compliant units persisted. Therefore, AHFA and its member companies support a mandatory federal rule that holds all manufacturers and importers to the same rigorous safety standard.
“While we applaud the CPSC’s commitment to a mandatory furniture stability standard, AHFA believes the direction the agency has taken in its regulatory proposal creates an ambiguous testing protocol that would be unenforceable,” said he declared.
“Furthermore, the CPSC’s estimates of the costs of complying with the rule are significantly underestimated. The real costs of product redesign, testing, reinforced packaging and transportation will force many companies specializing in entry-level products out of the market. This will leave parents on a budget with few options,” Counts continued. “AHFA opposes any standard that makes security a luxury that only some families can afford.”
Finally, the CPSC rule revolves around a hang tag designed to help consumers compare tip “notes” before purchasing a garment storage unit. “Although modeled after the familiar Energy Star Energy Guide rating system, the CPSC’s proposed hang tag does not provide consumers with meaningful insight into a product’s stability,” Counts says.
Energy Guide labels indicate a product’s energy consumption, with lower numbers representing a lower energy bill for the consumer at the end of the month. The CPSC’s proposed furniture hang tag – a bright yellow 5-inch by 7-inch tag that must be attached to all clothing storage furniture where consumers can see it before purchase – displays an ” tip rating” between 1 and 5 which is the ratio of the “tipping moment” of the unit to a “threshold tipping moment”.
“Unlike saving on your electric or gas bill, these ‘tipping moments’ aren’t familiar concepts to consumers,” Counts points out.
AHFA members have tested thousands of garment storage units in many styles and price points using the methods prescribed in the CPSC’s proposed rule. Although the units tested all met the current voluntary standard (and many exceeded it), none met the CPSC’s proposed minimum “spike count” without modifications. Some units, especially those with a drawer interlock system (which prevents more than one drawer from being opened at a time), required minor modifications to achieve the minimum tipping rating of 1.0. Those without drawer locks required significant design changes to achieve the minimum tipping rating.
“No modding action has resulted in a stability rating of 2.0, let alone anything above 2. CPSC offers an elaborate and expensive test scheme that assumes consumers will make decisions about purchase based on simple fractions of differentiation in a unit’s stability rating. AHFA believes that most units, regardless of price or quality level, will score between 1.0 and 1. .5 after modification A few can reach 2.0, but we haven’t found any of these units yet.
CPSC staff said they tested 186 units and found only one unit that met the minimum rating of 1.0 without modification. CPSC has so far declined to reveal the manufacturer of this unit.
The AHFA argues that these ambiguities in the proposed rule will lead to years of debate and indecision. “Meanwhile, furniture that does not meet the current voluntary standard will continue to be produced and marketed to US consumers,” Counts said.
In the vote to release NPR, commissioners changed the rule to shorten an already tight 180-day compliance deadline to just 30 days, despite the significant changes the rule requires in product design, raw materials, packaging requirements and delivery protocols.