Congresswoman pushes for furniture safety rules

An Illinois congresswoman says she will introduce a furniture safety bill meant to prevent tip-over accidents. U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat who chairs a consumer protection subcommittee, cited deaths and injuries of children from falling dressers.

“The fact that children had to die in order for this to come to the forefront is completely unacceptable,” Schakowsky said at a news conference March 20 in Chicago, the Sun-Times reported.

Many manufacturers comply with ASTM furniture safety standards, which were adopted in 2000 and have been updated several times. ASTM was formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials. The Home Furnishings Association is a member of its Furniture Safety Subcommittee and recommends that retailers sell only products that meet ASTM safety guidelines.

In February, the Consumer Products Safety Commission signaled it will take a more aggressive stance on furniture stability, HFA reported at the time.

“CPSC received numerous reports of child fatalities that occurred between 2000 and 2017 associated with clothing storage unit tip overs,” the agency’s deputy executive director, DeWane Ray, said in a letter addressed to manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers. “We believe that many of these deaths could have been prevented if the clothing storage units complied with the current ASTM F2057-17 standard.”

Units that don’t meet the stability standard pose “an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death” to children, Ray added. For that reason, CPSC compliance officers “will regard such products as having a defect which could present a substantial product hazard. Should we encounter such products, we shall initiate an investigation and will seek the corrective action we believe is appropriate.”

The same day, CPSC Acting Chairwoman Ann Marie Buerkle wrote a separate letter to ASTM urging it to consider revising the furniture safety standard to include shorter units and to implement tougher testing.

Currently, empty units must maintain stability with 50 pounds applied to the open top drawer. Buerkle asked ASTM to increase that weight to 60 pounds.

ASTM’s Furniture Safety Subcommittee is considering those changes.

Schakowsky plans to introduce a bill she calls the STURDY Act, for Stop Tip-overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth Act. A similar bill in 2016 failed to advance. The measure would have required CPSC to adopt new rules unless it determined the ASTM voluntary standard was sufficient to prevent accidents and was followed by manufacturers.

In the meantime, CPSC continues to advise consumers to anchor dressers to a wall. HFA fully supports that campaign and encourages members to inform and equip buyers to do that to guard against accidents.

Doug Clark is content manager and government relations liaison for the Home Furnishings Association. Contact him at 916-757-1167 or dclark@myhfa.org.

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