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Update on Recent Consumer Product Safety Commission Activities

The CPSC has taken several actions in recent weeks of potential interest to Hong Kong and mainland Chinese exporters. These actions are summarised below.

New Mandatory Safety Standard Approved for Infant Sling Carriers

The CPSC has issued a new federal mandatory safety standard for infant sling carriers that will enter into force on 30 January 2018. Sling carriers are defined as “a product of fabric or sewn fabric construction, which is designed to contain a child in an upright or reclined position while being supported by the caregiver’s torso.’’ The CPSC notes that these products generally are intended for children starting at full-term birth until a weight of about 35 pounds. The designs of infant slings vary but generally range from unstructured hammock-shaped products that suspend from the caregiver’s body to long lengths of material or fabric that are wrapped around the caregiver’s body.

Infant slings are normally worn with the infant positioned on the front, hip or back of the consumer and with the infant facing toward or away from the consumer. These products generally allow the infant to be placed in an upright or reclined position although the latter is intended to be used only when the infant is worn on the front of the consumer. The ability to carry the infant in a reclined position is the primary feature that distinguishes sling carriers from soft infant and toddler carriers, another subset of sling carriers.

The CPSC has identified three broad classes of sling carrier products available in the United States:

  • Ring slings
    Hammock-shaped fabric products in which one runs fabric through two rings to adjust and tighten the sling.
  • Pouch slings
    These products are similar to ring slings but do not use rings for adjustment. Many pouch slings are sized rather than designed to be adjustable, while other pouch slings are more structured and use buckles or other fasteners to adjust the size.
  • Wrap slings
    They are generally composed of a long length of fabric, upwards of six yards long and up to two feet wide. A wrap sling is completely unstructured with no fasteners or other means of structure. Instead, the caregiver uses different methods of wrapping the material around his/her body and the child’s body to support the child. Wrap-like slings mimic the manner in which a wrap supports the child but use fabric in other manners, such as loops, to reduce the need for caregivers to learn wrapping methods.

The new standard incorporates the most recent voluntary standard developed by ASTM International (ASTM F2907-15 – Standard Consumer Safety Specifications for Sling Carriers) with one modification to make warning labels more permanent by preventing them from being attached to the carrier along only one side of the label. Some of the more significant requirements of the standard include static and dynamic load testing to verify the structural integrity of the sling carrier and occupant retention testing to help ensure the child is not ejected from the carrier.

Among other things, the standard requires that the buckles, fasteners and knots that secure the sling carrier remain in position before and after these three performance tests. There is also a separate restraint system test to help ensure that any restraints used by the sling do not release while in use. In addition, the standard includes (i) requirements for several features to prevent cuts (hazardous sharp points or edges and wood parts); (ii) requirements on small parts; (iii) marking and labelling requirements; (iv) flammability requirements; (v) requirements for the permanency and adhesion of labels; and (vi) requirements for instructional literature. The updated warning statements (which must include certain language and comply with specifications regarding label size and colour) provide additional details of the fall and suffocation hazards and are intended to address the primary fatality risk associated with infant slings, suffocation. The rule also requires manufacturers to provide with their slings instructional literature containing additional warnings not required on labels, although the format of those instructions is not specified.

Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle said she voted against the standard (which was approved by a 3-2 vote) because “it is likely to ruin dozens if not hundreds of law-abiding small businesses without preventing any deaths or significant injuries.” CPSC staff concluded that the standard would have a significant adverse impact on a substantial number of small businesses, she said, one of “only a very few times in the CPSC’s entire history” such an affirmative determination has been made. Buerkle explained that once the standard becomes effective all slings will have to be certified based on third-party testing, even those produced by “the smallest sling makers” because Congress did not allow a “small batch” exemption for this type of safety standard. She added that these costs are unjustified given that CPSC staff was unable to devise performance or testing requirements that would address the primary hazard associated with these carriers.

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 early February, 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, portable hook-on chairs, soft infant and toddler carriers, and infant sling carriers. As of that date standards had not yet been adopted for infant bath tubs, infant bouncer seats, baby changing products, children’s folding chairs, stationary activity centres, gates and other enclosures for confining a child, high chairs and booster seats, although the Commission had issued proposed standards for some of these products (i.e., infant bath tubs, infant bouncer seats, high chairs, baby changing products, and children’s folding chairs and stools).

Safety Standard on Toys Revised

The CPSC has issued a direct final rule reflecting a recent update to the mandatory consumer product safety standard on toys (ASTM F963). This rule will be effective as of 30 April unless significant adverse comment is received by 6 March.

The CPSC states that the updated standard contains clarification, corrections and new requirements that will increase safety, reduce testing burden or enhance the clarity and utility of the standard. In addition, provisions were added to address new types of toys or hazards. Changes include updating labelling requirements for battery-operated toys and magnetic toys, adding new testing requirements to address toys that contain rechargeable cells and batteries, redefining “mouth-actuated toys” to include a broader range of toys (e.g., noisemakers and projectile toys) and reincorporating provisions on toy chests. This rule also updates the existing notice of requirements that provide the criteria and process for CPSC acceptance of accreditation of third-party conformity assessment bodies for testing to this standard.

Input Sought on Compliance with Mattress Standards

Importers, manufacturers, suppliers and laboratories are invited to submit to the CPSC no later than 4 April information on the materials, components and methods of assembly currently used to comply with the Standard for the Flammability of Mattresses and Mattress Pads (the cigarette ignition standard) and the Standard for the Flammability of Mattress Sets (the open flame standard). Each of these standards prescribes requirements for testing prototype designs before products using those designs are introduced into commerce. Both standards allow changes to ticking materials used in prototypes under certain conditions.

The information being solicited will be used to inform CPSC staff of current practices in the industry and determine whether the current testing protocols used for the ticking substitution procedure in the cigarette ignition standard are adequate or need revision to reduce variability. Staff is also interested in learning about stakeholder experiences related to prototyping to meet the requirements of the open flame standard so appropriate guidance on these topics can be provided.

Proposed Emissions Limits for Portable Generators to Be Discussed

The CPSC will hold a meeting on 8 March to receive comments from interested persons on a proposed rule that would limit carbon monoxide emissions from operating portable generators. Specifically, this rule would require that (i) portable generators powered by handheld spark-ignition engines and Class I SI engines not exceed a weighted CO emission rate of 75 grammes per hour, (ii) generators powered by one-cylinder, Class II SI engines not exceed a weighted CO emission rate of 150 g/h, and (iii) generators powered by Class II SI engines with two cylinders not exceed a weighted emission rate of 300 g/h. The CPSC is proposing these limits after preliminarily determining that there may be an unreasonable risk of injury and death associated with portable generators.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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