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CPSC Proposes Mandatory Standards for Portable Generators

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is seeking comments by 6 February on a proposal to establish mandatory requirements to address the risk of injury associated with carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators, engine-driven machines that convert chemical energy from the fuel powering the engine into rotational energy that is subsequently converted to electrical power. The proposal 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.

Section 7 of the Consumer Product Safety Act authorises the CPSC to promulgate a mandatory consumer product safety standard that sets forth certain performance requirements for a consumer product or that sets forth certain requirements that a product be marked or accompanied by clear and adequate warnings or instructions. A performance, warning or instruction standard must be reasonably necessary to prevent or reduce an unreasonable risk or injury. The CPSC may commence a rulemaking by issuing an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking, which it did for portable generators in December 2006, and may then proceed with a notice of proposed rulemaking.

Portable generators that are the subject of the proposed standard are commonly purchased by household consumers to provide electrical power during emergencies (e.g., power outages caused by storms), during other times when electrical power to the home has been shut off, when power is needed at locations around the home without access to electricity, and for recreational activities (e.g., camping or recreational vehicle trips). Built-in wheels or optional wheel kits are often available for heavier, more powerful units (e.g., units with 3 kW power ratings and more).

Products that would not be covered by the proposed rule include permanently installed stationary generators, 50 hertz generators, marine generators, generators permanently installed in recreational vehicles, generators intended to be pulled by vehicles, generators intended to be mounted in lorry beds, and generators that are part of welding machines. Generators powered by compression-ignition engines (engines fuelled by diesel) are also excluded.

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