AHFA Opposes Consumer Reports Recommendation

The American Home Furnishings Alliance was among members of the ASTM Furniture Safety Subcommittee voting against changes to the voluntary furniture stability standard recommended by Consumer Reports magazine here last week.

At a May 4 meeting of ASTM’s F15.42 subcommittee, Consumer Reports was invited by subcommittee chairman Richard Rosati to present results of product stability testing the magazine conducted earlier this year and published online in March. (The results appear in the May print edition of the magazine.) The testing included 24 products from 10 companies. In a follow-up report published online May 3, the magazine added test results for six additional products – two came from a manufacturer not in the first sample.

In its report, Consumer Reports described the ASTM voluntary furniture stability standard (F2057-17) as “weak” and said it “leaves too many children at risk.” The magazine proposed increasing the test weight from 50 pounds – the 95th percentile weight of a 60-month-old child – to 60 pounds – the 95th percentile weight for a 72-month-old child.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), between 2000 and 2016 there were 159 fatalities associated with clothing storage unit tip-overs that involved children under 6 years of age. Ninety-six percent of those (153) were children under 60 months. Of the 4 percent that involved children between 60 and 72 months, nearly all (5 out of 6) involved a television that also fell.

Of the 30 clothing storage units Consumer Reports tested, the magazine found 23 that passed a tip test its staff developed applying a 50-pound weight and 16 that passed a second test applying a 60-pound weight. The weights are intended to simulate the weight of a child attempting to climb the unit. Based on these results, the magazine concluded that “manufacturers can make dressers stable enough to meet a tougher standard, because many already do.”

Following his report to the ASTM subcommittee, Don Huber, director of product safety for Consumer Reports, proposed changing the test weight to 60 pounds and expanding the voluntary standard to cover all clothing storage units, not just those over 30 inches in height.

If the proposal had passed the subcommittee vote, a ballot with the recommended changes would have gone out to all voting members of the ASTM F15 Consumer Products Committee for approval. But the subcommittee rejected the proposed change in the test weight and tabled the proposed change in the height of clothing storage units covered by the standard.

[AHFA’s Furniture Foundation Awards 2017 Grants]

A new task group was formed to review the height of units covered by the standard. An age/weight task group already exists and will evaluate newly available 2016 incident data to determine whether any change is needed in the current test method.

“The report presented by Consumer Reports did not draw any correlation between a 60-pound test weight and improved safety,” AHFA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Bill Perdue said. “It also provided no evidence that ‘many manufacturers’ could already pass a 60-pound test. The industry has hundreds of manufacturers producing thousands of different product variations marketed as ‘clothing storage units.’ Test results from 11 or 12 companies do not represent an adequate sample for making such a sweeping generalization.”

AHFA has worked with furniture manufacturers, child safety advocates and the CPSC for nearly two decades on safety measures to increase the stability of bedroom storage furniture and to reduce the number of furniture tip-over accidents, especially those involving children. AHFA supports the ASTM Furniture Safety Subcommittee in its examination of all injury and fatality data to determine hazard patterns that can be addressed to improve child safety.

AHFA member companies have led the industry in making significant product modifications to achieve improved stability, and AHFA favors increased enforcement of the voluntary standard to ensure all manufacturers make these same product modifications.

Aside from considering the changes proposed by Consumer Reports, the ASTM Furniture Safety Subcommittee approved sending several standard updates out for a full ballot vote, among them:

For the purpose of the stability tests in ASTM F2057-17, “operational sliding length” will be defined as extending drawers or pullout shelves, or both, “to the first stop or, in the absence of such a feature, to two-thirds of their operational sliding length, whichever is most onerous, without defeating any mechanical stops.” (New language is in boldface.) A new icon showing a TV with a hazard symbol is added to the standard warning label for clothing storage units, along with the language, “NEVER put a TV on this product.”
A new warning label is designed for clothing storage units that ARE designed and intended by the manufacturer to be used with a TV. This new label includes the statement: “For use with televisions weighing X lbs. (kg) or less. Use with heavier televisions may result in instability causing tip-over resulting in death or serious injury.” The standard will include an appendix with information that may assist manufacturers in determining the appropriate television weight to list on their warning labels.

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