8 Dec 2017
CPSC to Address Tip Over Hazards from Clothing Storage Units
The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted on 21 November to issue an advance notice of proposed rulemaking concerning the risk of injuries and death associated with clothing storage units tipping over. This action formally begins a rulemaking process that may ultimately result in the adoption of mandatory safety standards for these products. Interested parties will have 60 days from the date of publication of the proposal in the Federal Register to submit comments.
CSUs are freestanding furniture intended for storing clothing. They are typically bedroom furniture but may be used elsewhere. CSUs are available in a variety of designs (e.g., vertical or horizontal dressers), sizes (e.g., weights and heights) and materials (e.g., wood, plastic, leather). CSUs usually have a flat surface on top and commonly include doors or drawers for consumers to store clothing or other items. Examples of CSUs include chests of drawers, bureaus, dressers, armoires, wardrobes, portable closets and clothing storage lockers. CSUs do not include products that are permanently attached or built into a structure or products that are not typically intended to store clothing, such as bookcases, shelves, cabinets, entertainment furniture, office furniture or jewellery armoires. Additional factors may be relevant for the Commission to define CSUs in a mandatory standard, such as the height of products and design features.
CSUs are available through various distribution channels. The retail price of CSUs varies, with the least expensive products retailing for less than US$100 and the most expensive selling for several thousand dollars. Less expensive CSUs are usually mass produced while more expensive products are often hand-made. The lifespans of CSUs vary as well.
CPSC staff has reviewed fatal and non-fatal incidents involving CSU tip overs to determine the age of people involved in these incidents (mostly children), the types of CSUs and other items involved, the hazard patterns involved, and the types of injuries and deaths that result from these incidents. In all, there were 195 deaths related to CSU tip overs between 2000 and 2016 that were reported to the CPSC. Additionally, an estimated 65,200 injuries related to CSU tip overs were treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments between 2006 and 2016. Eighty-six percent of the reported fatalities involved children under 18 years of age, most of which were under six years of age. Seventy-three percent of the emergency department-treated injuries, meanwhile, involved children under 18 years of age, most of which were also under six years of age.
The CPSC has taken a number of steps over the years to address CSU tip overs. In June 2015, the Commission launched the Anchor It! campaign, an educational effort that included print and broadcast public service announcements, information distribution at targeted venues, such as childcare centres, and an informational website (www.AnchorIt.gov) explaining the nature of the risk and safety tips for avoiding furniture and television tip overs. In addition, CPSC staff prepared a briefing package in September 2016 to identify hazard patterns involved in tip-over incidents, assess existing voluntary standards that address CSU tip overs, and identify factors that may reduce the likelihood of CSUs tipping over. As part of that effort, Commission staff tested a convenience sample of CSUs. The CPSC has also pursued corrective actions with several CSU manufacturers and conducted several voluntary recalls of CSUs.
The CPSC is now considering developing a mandatory safety standard for CSUs to address the risk of injury associated with these products tipping over. Under section 7 of the Consumer Product Safety Act, the Commission may issue a consumer product safety standard if the requirements of the standard are “reasonably necessary to prevent or reduce an unreasonable risk of injury associated with [a] product.” The safety standard may consist of performance requirements or requirements for warnings and instructions. However, if there is a voluntary standard that would adequately reduce the risk of injury the Commission seeks to address and there is likely to be substantial compliance with that standard, then the Commission must rely on the voluntary standard instead of issuing a mandatory standard. To issue a mandatory standard under section 7, the Commission must follow the procedural and substantive requirements in section 9 of the CPSA.
After assessing the requirements in each of the existing voluntary and international standards, CPSC staff determined that the two ASTM standards (ASTM F2057-17, Standard Safety Specification for Clothing Storage Units; and ASTM F3096-14, Standard Performance Specification for Tipover Restraint(s) Used with Clothing Storage Unit(s)) are the most effective existing standards. Nevertheless, the CPSC also preliminarily determined that the existing standards do not adequately reduce the risk of CSU tip overs.
Commission staff believes the two ASTM standards are more effective than the international requirements primarily for two reasons. First, although it may appear that EN 14749 is the most stringent standard because it requires additional stability tests, these tests are not as severe as applying a larger force to the front edge of an empty unit, as ASTM F2057-17 and AS/NZA 4935 require. Second, ASTM F2057-17 is the only standard that requires tip over restraint devices. The Commission’s Division of Mechanical Engineering staff believes that TRDs are an important component to effectively prevent CSU tip overs.
An eventual mandatory standard could include performance requirements, warning and instructional requirements, or both. However, CPSC staff believes warning and instructional requirements alone may not be adequate to address the risk posed by CSUs because they rely on consumers noticing, reading and following the warning. While the Commission could also rely on voluntary standards ASTM F2057-17 and ASTM F3096-14, it preliminarily believes that a mandatory standard is required to address the hazard at hand. Alternately, the CPSC could take no regulatory action and instead rely on product recalls or educational campaigns, although Commission staff believes these alternatives may not be as effective as a mandatory standard.