ASTM proposed revisions fail

Above: City Furniture photo shows testing for stability following ASTM standard.

A proposal to raise the testing weight used in ASTM’s furniture stability standard failed for now, following a second round of voting by its Consumer Products Committee and Furniture Safety Subcommittee.

One change has been approved: The voluntary standard will cover clothing storage units as low as 27 inches rather than 30 inches. That revision will take effect in about six months.

ASTM says clothing storage units, which include dressers and chests of drawers, must stand upright when empty and holding up to 50 pounds on the fully extended top drawer. Fifty pounds is the weight of a 5-year-old child in the 95th percentile of his age group, according to federal data. The proposed revision was to gear the standard to children up to 72 months in age, which would require a test weight of 60 pounds.

Two rounds of voting

Members of the committee and subcommittee voted separately on adopting the revisions. The first round of voting was completed in April and resulted in strong majorities in support. However, under ASTM rules, the argument backing each negative vote must be examined and resolved. The negatives were subject to a second balloting, and not enough votes were secured on the subcommittee to overturn them, leaving the revisions short of the support necessary.

The subcommittee includes more than 100 members, who represent a wide range of interests from the furniture industry to consumer advocates. The Home Furnishings Association is a member and cast votes in favor of the 27-inch revision but against the other proposals.

HFA asks for mandatory standard

At the same time, HFA CEO Sharron Bradley has asked the Consumer Products Safety Commission to set a mandatory standard governing furniture stability. The association also urges members to provide tip restraints to customers purchasing dressers, chests and other furniture potentially subject to falling over.

HFA advises retailers not to sell units that don’t meet ASTM standards. But, since CPSC acknowledges that accidental tip-overs of unsteady units pose a hazard to small children, it should require compliance with meaningful safety standards. Combined with strong enforcement, that would give retailers and consumers the assurance that products are designed for stability.

The ASTM Furniture Safety Subcommittee will re-examine its proposed revisions and, if warranted, try again to reach consensus on changes to its standard.

Doug Clark is content manager, government relations liaison and Policy Matters blog author for the Home Furnishings Association.

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