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CPSC Advances Efforts to Improve Safety of Clothing Storage Units, Portable Generators

The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently outlined on-going efforts to improve the safety of clothing storage units and portable generators as well as priorities on the product safety, import surveillance and international outreach fronts for fiscal year 2017. A recent development of particular interest involves the issuance of a briefing package as an initial step that may eventually result in the adoption of mandatory safety standards for freestanding clothing storage units such as dressers, armoires, chests of drawers and wardrobes that may pose a risk of injury and death to children due to tip-over. Indeed, the CPSC expects to issue an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to address tip-over hazards in FY 2017.

Voluntary standard ASTM F2057-14 is intended to reduce injuries and deaths of children up to and including age five from hazards associated with tip-over of clothing storage units such as combination chests, door chests and dressers over 30 inches in height that are freestanding. Other furniture, such as dining room furniture, bookcases and armoires, are not covered by the standard. F2057-14 has performance requirements for stability of the clothing storage unit as well as requirements for the inclusion of tip-over restraints and a warning label. The standard sets forth two main stability requirements: (i) the empty unit must not tip over when all of the drawers are open to their full extension; and (ii) the empty unit must not tip over when a 50-pound weight is hung from each open drawer at full extension, with only one drawer open at a time. The 2014 publication of the standard modified previous requirements that called for testing when the drawers were opened two-thirds of their operational sliding length, which is measured from the inside back of the drawer to the inside face of the drawer front in its fully closed position. Moreover, in 2014 the requirements for tip restraint devices that had been part of ASTM F2057 were moved into a separate standard, ASTM F3096-14.

After performing a survey of the U.S. market for clothing storage units and testing a sample group of those units, CPSC staff found that 31 out of 61 tested samples did not comply with the stability requirements of ASTM F2057-14. Staff further predicted that 118 of the 531 clothing storage units identified in its sample (representing 51 of the 102 manufacturers in the sample) would likely fail the stability testing. Additionally, the majority of labels from the 61 samples tested did not conform with labelling provisions and 26 out of 61 samples failed the requirements for tip restraint devices.

In light of these findings, staff has determined to continue to build a larger sample size of data to refine the estimated tip formula and provide more robust analysis of furniture stability characteristics. Moreover, staff will continue to actively engage with the relevant ASTM subcommittee to develop an effective standard by (i) increasing the test weight from 50 pounds to 60 pounds to encompass the 95th percentile of potentially vulnerable children up to age six and address the effect of alternate flooring materials (such as carpeting) on tip-over; (ii) reintegrating tip restraint  performance requirements into ASTM 2057-14; (iii) developing system-level testing methods that allow for the innovation of alternate or integrated tip restraint devices; and (iv) modifying the warning label to address the deficiencies staff has identified. Additionally, staff found that ASTM F3096-14 as currently drafted impedes potential alternative solutions. Staff will therefore continue to work with the subcommittee to expand this standard and will pursue an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to address the hazards associated with tip-over of freestanding clothing storage units.

Separately, the CPSC is expected to publish in the near future a proposal to establish mandatory requirements to address the risk of injury associated with carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators. Should the CPSC commissioners vote to move forward with this action, the Commission will propose a rule that would require portable generators powered by hand-held spark-ignition engines and Class I SI engines not to exceed a weighted carbon monoxide emission rate of 75 grams per hour. In addition, generators powered by one-cylinder Class II SI engines would not be able to exceed a weighted carbon monoxide emission rate of 150 grams per hour, while generators powered by Class II SI engines with two cylinders would not be able to exceed a weighted emission rate of 300 grams per hour. Interested parties would have 75 days from the date of issuance of a proposal to submit input.

The CPSC also recently outlined in its operating plan for FY 2017 its key priorities for the period comprising 1 October 2016 through 30 September 2017. The Commission notes that during 2015 more than 192,000 importers brought into the United States consumer products under CPSC jurisdiction with a total estimated value of about US$754 billion. Given that four out of five product recalls in the United States involve an imported product, the CPSC launched in 2011 a highly innovative International Trade Data System/Risk Assessment Methodology (RAM) pilot system that uses the agency’s unique data, along with data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to quickly target certain high-risk consumer products arriving at U.S. ports of entry. The initial pilot RAM 1.0 targeting system is currently transitioning into a more advanced pilot RAM 2.0. Since this programme was originally implemented the CPSC has stopped more than 7.6 million violative or potentially hazardous non-fireworks consumer product units from entering U.S. commerce, which is more than 40 times the number of units identified by the agency in 2007. Moreover, during 2011-2015 the CPSC saw a 33 percent decrease in the rate of compliant shipments held.

One of the priorities of the CPSC’s Office of Import Surveillance for FY 2017 is supporting the single window platform by implementing a pilot programme to collect targeting/enforcement data with volunteers from the trade community. The CPSC’s partner government agency message set pilot programme would be migrated to the “beta” testing phase, provided the “alpha” phase proves successful. At the same time, the CPSC will continue to provide support to CBP’s Automated Commercial Environment, which is an interface connecting CBP, the trade community and other federal government agencies to manage the admissibility of goods entering the United States. The Commission also intends to work with the Office of Information and Technology Services in transitioning from pilot RAM 1.0 to pilot RAM 2.0 and supporting additional functionality in the updated pilot. In addition, the agency will increase import surveillance office staff by 25 percent (ten members) and adapt to the reorganisation of CBP’s new business processing and targeting functionality, including by co-ordinating efforts with CBP’s Centers of Excellence and Expertise.

Targets for FY 2017 include, among others, completing 40,000 import examinations, ensuring that 99 percent of all import shipments processed through the RAM pilot system are cleared within one business day, and ensuring that at least 86 percent of import entry holds submitted by the CPSC to CBP are acted on by CBP. The CPSC also intends to cross-train other federal agencies’ staff to identify hazardous imported products at 24 U.S. ports and ensure that at least 80 percent of first-time violators are engaged with a timely informed compliance inspection after a violation determination.

The CPSC’s Office of International Programs, meanwhile, intends to develop and implement in FY 2017 the first CPSC industry training seminar in mainland China with a focus on design. The agency will also support the activities of its Beijing office in providing a full programme of product safety training for industry and effective co-ordination with mainland Chinese product safety authorities. Other plans for FY 2017 include expanding overseas training of U.S. product safety requirements for foreign suppliers and buyers and sourcing professionals representing U.S. importers, producing four new episodes of the product safety video series for mainland Chinese manufacturers, conducting training for foreign regulators, and co-ordinating an annual joint outreach campaign with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Additionally, the CPSC intends to issue final mandatory safety rules in FY 2017 for children’s folding chairs and stools, high chairs, changing tables, infant bath tubs, infant bouncer seats, infant slings, and phthalates in children’s toys and child care articles, as well as notices of proposed rulemaking on toys, all-terrain vehicles, booster seats, gates and other enclosures, infant inclined sleep products, stationary activity centres, fireworks, portable generators, table saws and window coverings.

CPSC staff also expects to participate actively in voluntary standards activities for up to 72 different consumer products. Participation will extend beyond attendance at meetings and may include, among other activities, providing injury data and hazard analyses, encouraging development or revision of voluntary standards, identifying specific risks of injury, performing research, developing health science data, performing laboratory technical assistance and/or taking other actions that the CPSC determines may be appropriate.

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