New York enacts Harper’s Law

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed Harper’s Law Tuesday. The measure bars retailers in that state from selling new clothing storage units that don’t meet standards for furniture stability unless they also offer tip-restraint kits.

The law is named for Harper Ayva Fried of Monroe, N.Y., who died at age 3 in November 2016 when a dresser in her room fell over. Her parents, Aaron and Erica Fried, formed HarperSmiles, a nonprofit dedicated to educating the public about the danger of tip-over accidents.

Harper’s Law takes effect in 90 days, or mid-November. It requires retailers to post safety warnings about the potential for chests and dressers to tip over when children attempt to climb on them or pull them.

Retailers were warned earlier this year by the Consumer Products Safety Commission against selling units that don’t comply with safety standards published by ASTM International.

ASTM revises voluntary safety standard

Earlier this month, that organization announced it will publish a revision to its standard for clothing storage units this fall.

“Specifically, the new revision lowers the height to include units 27 inches tall and above (previously 30 inches and above),” ASTM said in a news release. “The update also modifies label language on risk of tip-overs and use of wall restraints, and adds graphics showing that televisions should not be placed on top of units.

“ASTM International is expediting this revision, which is on track for final approval and publication within the next two months.

“’Our commitment remains to providing an open, consensus-based process that welcomes everyone to participate in voluntary standards development,’ says Katharine Morgan, ASTM International president. ‘This includes consumer advocates, representatives from government and testing laboratories, manufacturers, retailers and other stakeholders.’”

Harper’s Law allows retailers to meet their obligations by offering tip restraints to customers. The Consumer Products Safety Commission launched its Anchor It! campaign in 2016 to raise awareness about tip-over dangers. The Home Furnishings Association strongly supports that effort.

The latest CPSC push includes new videos, posters and other materials in English and Spanish, a televised public service announcement and a tip-over prevention message shared by Latina influencers in Southern California.

Retailers have an important role

Separately, Commissioner Peter Feldman will speak at the American Home Furnishings Alliance Regulatory Summit in Colfax, N.C., Oct. 2. That event also will feature a retail panel addressing the tip-over problem. Participants will include Greg Crowley of Crowley Furniture & Mattress and Jameson Dion of City Furniture. Both businesses are members of the Home Furnishings Association and are leaders in safety. HFA’s government relations liaison Doug Clark will moderate the panel.

CPSC has never stopped promoting the Anchor It! campaign, Public Affairs Officer John Hoellwarth said Tuesday. It just refreshes materials periodically.

It also updates statistics. While noting a small decline in accidents over the past year, Hoellwarth said the numbers are still much too high. Yet most cases don’t generate national headlines. Efforts to increase awareness compete with other news, and even terrible tip-over tragedies tend to attract only localized coverage.

Furniture retailers have an obligation to educate the public, too. They should advise customers to anchor dressers and chests; they can download and display CPSC safety posters and cards; and they can put CPSC’s latest safety video on their websites.

And in New York, retailers must comply with Harper’s Law.

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