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Safety Standards for Infant Bouncer Seats and Children's Folding Chairs under Consideration

The Consumer Product Safety Commission is seeking comments from interested parties by 4 January 2016 on separate proposals to establish mandatory safety standards for infant bouncer seats and children’s folding chairs and stools. Input may also be submitted by 28 December on a plan by the Commission to perform a retrospective review of existing rules.

Section 104 of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 requires the CPSC to promulgate consumer product safety standards for a range of durable infant or toddler products. These standards must be substantially the same as applicable voluntary standards or more stringent than the voluntary standard if the Commission determines that more stringent requirements would further reduce the risk of injury associated with the product. As of 31 October, the CPSC had issued standards for bassinets and cradles, bath seats, bed rails (portable), bedside sleepers, full-size cribs, non-full-size cribs, infant swings, infant walkers, play yards, strollers and carriages, toddler beds, hand-held infant carriers, frame child carriers, and soft infant and toddler carriers. As of that date standards had not yet been adopted for infant slings, infant bath tubs, infant bouncers, changing tables, children’s folding chairs, stationary activity centres, gates and other enclosures for confining a child, and high chairs, booster seats, and hook-on chairs, although the Commission had issued proposed standards for some of these products.

The proposal on infant bouncer seats would adopt as mandatory the performance requirements in voluntary standard ASTM F2167-15 and strengthen the warning label and instructional material provisions of that standard. Specifically, the CPSC is proposing to add the following two components to the warning statements for bouncer seats that are absent in ASTM F2167-15: (i) the phrase “even if baby is sleeping” to the warning to use restraints and (ii) developmental guidance on when to stop using the product to help avoid suffocation and fall risks. In addition, the fall hazard warning label would have to comply with certain formatting requirements and be placed on the front of the product near the infant’s head to increase the likelihood that caregivers will notice it and comply with its recommendations.

ASTM F2167–15 defines infant bouncer seats as “a freestanding product intended to support an occupant in a reclined position to facilitate bouncing by the occupant, with the aid of a caregiver or by other means.” Infant bouncer seats are intended for infants who have not developed the ability to sit up unassisted (approximately 0 to 6 months of age). These products vary widely in style and complexity but typically consist of a cloth cover stretched over a wire or tubular frame. Wire frame bouncers have two designs: the forward bend design is constructed with the seating area supported from the front side of the product, while in the rear bend design the seat is supported from the rear side of the product. Other bouncer designs are also currently available, including products with individual wire legs, solid bases and spring designs. All bouncer seats support the child in an inclined position and some brands have adjustable seat backs. Various bouncer seat models include a “soothing unit” that vibrates or bounces the chair and may play music or other sounds. Most bouncer seats also feature an accessory bar with attached toys that are, or at some point will be, within the child’s reach. Additionally, many bouncer seat brands include an “infant insert” intended for use to support smaller babies.

The proposal on children’s folding chairs and stools would incorporate by reference ASTM F2613-14 with certain modifications to strengthen the standard. For example, the CPSC is proposing to revise section 5.13 (stability) to specify that all products shall not tip over backwards or sideways when tested in accordance with the stability test methods and provide that tip over shall consist of the product moving past equilibrium and begin to overturn. In addition, the proposal would revise section 6.8 (stability test method) to include a test method for sideways stability testing as well as rearward stability testing. Section 6.8.1 would be added to specify requirements for test equipment, test preparation, test surface area, test cylinders and measurement of product seating surface height. Moreover, new section 6.8.2 would provide the test method for rearward stability and new section 6.8.3 would provide the test method for sideways stability. Those sections would also specify the product orientation, the application of the load, cylinder positioning for folding chairs, and cylinder positioning for folding stools.

The CPSC is also proposing to revise section 7.2 of ASTM F2613-14 to state that each folding chair and each folding stool requires warning statements. New proposed requirements would provide specific instructions so that warnings are both easier to read and more conspicuous. Some of these requirements include putting the warnings in the English language, using highly contrasting colour(s) in sans serif non-condensed style font, and placing the label separate and distinct from any other graphic or written material on the product. Other proposed requirements would provide specific language for the warning statements, including the use of the safety alert symbol.

In addition, the scope of the proposed mandatory standard would be limited to children’s folding chairs and folding stools rather than all children’s chairs and stools. The terms “children’s folding chair” and “children’s folding stool” are defined as a children’s chair or stool that can be folded for transport or storage. ASTM’s definition considers children’s folding stools to be a subset of children’s folding chairs, albeit without a back or armrest. Folding chairs and stools have similar configurations and the same potential hazards are presented in the folding mechanisms.

Separately, the CPSC welcomes input on a plan for a retrospective review of existing rules that sets forth a method for identifying and reconsidering rules that are obsolete, unnecessary, unjustified, excessively burdensome, counterproductive or ineffective, or that otherwise would benefit from modification. The plan’s review processes are intended to facilitate the identification of rules that warrant repeal or modification, including those that could benefit from strengthening, complementing or modernising.

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