CPSC sends a strong warning about furniture tip overs

In a strongly worded letter Feb. 27, the Consumer Products Safety Commission warned furniture retailers not to sell clothing storage units – mostly bedroom dressers – that don’t meet ASTM safety standards. 

ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, is a private organization that develops voluntary technical standards for a wide variety of industries. It first published standards designed to prevent furniture tip overs nearly 20 years ago and has updated them several times. 

“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.” That action could include mandatory recalls, but penalties would be possible for “knowing and willful violations,” according to the CPSC. Additionally, manufacturers or sellers of noncompliant units could face civil liability for accidents. 

“AHFA has long maintained that ‘voluntary’ does not mean ‘optional’ when it comes to the stability standard,” American Home Furnishings Alliance Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Bill Perdue said in response to Ray’s letter. AHFA works with ASTM’s Furniture Safety Subcommittee and urges industry compliance.

“ASTM F2057-17 currently covers all clothing storage units over 30 inches in height,” AHFA said in a news release. “It requires these units to be engineered for stability. Compliant pieces must pass two stability tests, carry a permanent warning label and be shipped to the consumer with tip restraints and instructions for installing those restraints. 

“To pass the first stability test, an empty unit must not tip when doors, if any, are opened 90 degrees, and all drawers are fully extended to the ‘stop.’ (In absence of a ‘stop,’ drawers are opened two-thirds of the way.) To pass the second stability test, the empty piece must not tip when one drawer is open to the ‘stop’ (or two-thirds open in absence of a ‘stop’) and a 50-pound weight is gradually applied to the front edge of the open drawer. The piece must pass this second test in the same manner for each drawer and door in the unit. The 50-pound weight is intended to simulate the weight of an average 5-year-old child.” 

CPSC has produced an “Anchor It” campaign recommending that owners install restraints to prevent tip overs, but the safety standards must be met even without anchoring the unit.

“Consequently, you should not manufacture, import, distribute or sell clothing storage units that are within the scope of the ASTM F2507 standard but do not comply with its requirements,” the CPSC’s Ray wrote. “I urge you to review your product line immediately and ensure that all clothing storage units that you manufacture, import, distribute or sell in the United States comply with ASTM F2057-17 standard where applicable.” 

The Home Furnishings Association supports the CPSC awareness campaign and Anchor It! program and encourages retailers to make sure the clothing storage units they offer for sale meet the ASTM standard and are labeled as in compliance. 

That standard can be purchased from ASTM International for $48.

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