WASHINGTON – While the STURDY Act still sits waiting on action by the House, the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted late October to adopt a complex mandatory product safety rule that will significantly change the way clothing storage furniture is constructed, tested and labeled.
The rule has not yet been published in the Federal Register. It will take effect 180 days after publication. But how does the new rule differ from STURDY? And which one supersedes the other?
While in support of STURDY, the American Home Furnishings Alliance opposes the new CPSC standard, primarily saying that the rule’s two prescribed test methods for stability – one of which relies on a complicated calculation of an item’s “tip-over moment” – are ambiguous and unenforceable.
“After hundreds of sample tests conducted by member companies and by independent labs, AHFA concluded that the complex data acquisition and calculations required by the rule produced such variable results that the rule was likely to end up mired in prolonged legal challenges,” the AHFA wrote in a release. “Ultimately, AHFA believes the rule could be unenforceable.”
Another point of contention lies in the rule’s hangtag requirement, which would force all “clothing storage” furniture items to display a tag with information on the item’s tip-over rating on a scale from zero to five.
AHFA said its members were unable to find a single clothing storage unit at any price point or design that could reach the minimum stability rating of “1” without modifications. Even after product modifications, like adding drawer interlocks, shortening drawer sliding length, and/or adding significant counter weight, AHFA found only fractions of differentiation between tested units, with most achieving ratings between 1 and 2.
CPSC then amended the hangtag in its final rule, changing the rating scale to zero to two instead (with “1” continuing to be the minimum stability acceptable rating).
“AHFA supports stability testing that provides consumers with an assurance of compliance, rather than a sliding scale of ‘more’ or “less’ stable indicated by mere fractions within in a vaguely defined, two-point rating system,” said Bill Perdue, AHFA’s vice president of regulatory affairs.
The AHFA says these objectives are met in the STURDY Act, which passed in the Senate last month and now awaits approval by the House.
“STURDY outlines furniture performance testing that simulates the same “real world” conditions as the CPSC’s rule: carpeted surfaces, multiple drawers open, drawers filled and the dynamic interaction of a child climbing,” said Perdue. “However, these conditions would be replicated in measurable pass/fail tests that have undergone an inter-laboratory review confirming that they are repeatable consistently and reproducible.”
The new stability performance tests required by STURDY have been added to the existing voluntary stability standard, ASTM F2057.
As it stands, the Senate version of STURDY would require CPSC to adopt the updated voluntary standard as the federal consumer product safety rule, as long as it meets the requirements of the Act. This would then supersede the CPSC rule.
“However, STURDY allows the agency to override the consensus achieved by AHFA, parents and consumer advocates in developing the new performance testing requirements,” Perdue said. “If the commissioners decide that the updated F2057 voluntary standard does not meet the requirements in STURDY, it could still attempt to force through its complex testing and stability rating scheme.”