More furniture may be included in voluntary stability standard

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A voluntary stability standard for home furnishings products may be expanded early next year.

The Furniture Safety Subcommittee of ASTM International agreed in principle last month to expand the scope of its standard to cover clothing-storage furniture less than 30 inches tall, according to the American Home Furnishings Alliance.

ASTM, formerly known as American Society for Testing and Materials, develops voluntary technical standards for a range of industries. Responding to the problem of furniture instability, or tip-over, the society set safety standards in 2000. At that time, the minimum height of 30 inches was meant to exclude nightstands and other lightweight furniture pieces that were not thought to pose a hazard. In recent years, however, the increasing popularity of small dressers and other reduced-sized bedroom collections has invited a re-examination of the standard. AHFA reports that the Furniture Safety Subcommittee could vote on a revision as soon as January.

[Furniture retailers called to improve safety messages]

The Consumer Products Safety Commission has launched a rule-making process for setting mandatory standards. Patty Davis, acting communications director, provided the HFA with this statement from CPSC Acting Chairwoman Ann Marie Buerkle Dec. 10:

“Furniture tip-over prevention is a critical safety issue, and I strongly support the voluntary standards activities underway to address this ‘hidden’ hazard. I very much look forward to hearing more of the standard’s development, including clothing storage units 30 inches and under. While this important work is underway, I urge consumers to visit AnchorIt.gov and Anchor It! Tip-overs are preventable by properly attaching or anchoring TVs, dressers and other furniture to a wall. I encourage consumers to view CPSC’s YouTube video (below) for instructions and guidance for how to anchor their furniture.”

The CPSC staff in October released a report attributing 542 deaths to furniture, television and appliance tip-over in the United States from 2000 through 2017. More than 80 percent of the victims were 14 years old or younger. Most of those incidents involved televisions or televisions and furniture, such as a television placed on top of a chest, bureau or dresser. Thirty percent, or 165 deaths, involved only furniture.

The report did not address whether any deaths or injuries were caused by furniture less than 30 inches high, nor did Davis have an answer when HFA asked whether there are such statistics.
The HFA strongly supports the ASTM voluntary standards and CPSC’s Anchor It! program.

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