The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for clothing storage furniture on July 14. Based on a preliminary review of the rule by the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA), a majority of clothing storage furniture currently on the market today would not be able to meet the minimum stability requirements outlined in the rule.
AHFA's Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Bill Perdue, along with members of an AHFA furniture safety task group who have worked on regulatory issues for more than two decades, continue reviewing the 1,180-page document and are conducting trial evaluations of the new test methods proposed in the rule.
In addition, AHFA has commissioned two independent labs to evaluate the test methods and help industry better understand the potential changes to product design that could be needed to demonstrate compliance should the proposed rule move forward. Four AHFA member companies are generously supplying multiple clothing storage units to the two labs for this study.
“AHFA member companies have always been leaders in product safety, and they are once again devoting an enormous amount of time, talent and resources to help the industry understand and evaluate the potential impact of this rule on clothing storage furniture,” Perdue states. “And, I want to emphasize that this proposed rule impacts the entire category, not just units marketed as ‘youth’ or ‘children’s’ furniture.”
The proposed new rule makes significant changes to the way clothing storage units are tested and labeled. Compliance requires four steps:
- First, the unit is tested for stability by determining its “tip-over moment.” This is the point at which force on the top of an open drawer front OR a horizontal force applied to the top center of the back of the unit causes the unit to tip over. Tip over is defined as the rear feet lifting at least ¼ inch from the floor. This test is conducted with all drawers open and weighted by volume. (The “fill weight” is calculated based on the size of the drawer.)
- Second, the unit must be modified/redesigned if the “tip-over moment” value is not greater than any one of three comparison “tip-over moments” that CPSC has defined. These comparison tip-over moments are calculated to determine if a unit’s stability is sufficient to withstand tipping over when a child interacts with the unit, including opening drawers, climbing drawers and exerting “dynamic force” on the unit during play. The test also requires the unit to be included to 1.5 degrees to take into account the unit being on carpet.
- The unit must be labeled with specific safety information. CPSC proposes incorporating by reference the format, font, font size and color requirements of the existing warning label outlined in ASTM F2057-19, the current voluntary furniture stability standard. The NPR includes new requirements for the location of the label and changes the words “tip restraint” to “anti-tip device.”
- Compliant units must carry a new hang tag that provides performance and technical data about its stability. This hang tag introduces a new stability rating system designed to help consumers identify more stable units.
A sample hangtag in the proposed rule shows a 0-to-5 stability scale in which "0" is labeled "LESS" and "5" is labeled "MORE" to indicate that the higher values on the scale correspond to a greater tip-over resistance. Units meeting the minimum tip-over threshold would have a rating of “1.”
"A hangtag provided on the CSU will offer consumers comparative information about the stability of products, based on a specific tip-testing protocol that staff recommends as part of the draft proposed rule... By providing product information at the point of purchase, the hangtag will inform consumers who are evaluating the comparative safety of different CSUs and making buying decisions," the NPR states.
However, CPSC reports that only one unit of 186 the agency tested met the proposed new minimum tip-over threshold. Initial testing by AHFA member companies confirms that the impact of the proposed new test methods on the bedroom furniture market will be significant.
“To date, AHFA member companies that are testing clothing storage furniture using the prescribed calculations in the proposed rule have not found a design that meets the minimum threshold. The samples tested involved products in a range of price points and designs,” Perdue notes. “While early in the process, it is clear product modifications will be required to meet the minimum tip-over threshold and demonstrate compliance to the proposed rule.”
Staff proposes that the hangtags with the rating scale be at least 5 inches wide and 7 inches tall; "be clearly visible to a person standing in front of the unit;" and be removable "only with deliberate effort by the end consumer."
AHFA has invited Kristen Talcott, the CPSC’s project manager for furniture tip-over, to participate the September 1-2 Sustainability & Regulatory Summit sponsored by the Alliance to answer questions about the NPR. She has not yet accepted the invitation.
AHFA has favored CPSC rulemaking on furniture stability over legislation, as represented by the STURDY Act, because rulemaking requires CPSC to receive and respond to comments and analysis from industry and other stakeholders. This notice and comment is critical to developing a rule that is economically feasible and protective for the greatest number of consumers. Further, the rulemaking process requires staff to submit a cost benefit analysis to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
But STURDY – the Stop Tip-overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth Act – requires no such review. If passed, it would allow CPSC to implement the provisions of the NPR with no input from industry and no OMB review. STURDY already has passed the House and could possibly reach committee review in the Senate next week. If passed this year, CPSC would have one year to implement a stability rule that meets STURDY’s requirement for testing clothing storage furniture with drawers loaded, on carpeted surfaces and accounting for the “dynamic force” of a child playing on the furniture. Essentially, this is what is contained in the NPR.
“Several leading home furnishings brands have pledged support for STURDY,” AHFA CEO Andy Counts points out. “Like AHFA and several of our member companies, they were contacted by Consumer Reports magazine and asked to state their position publicly.”
He continues, “We urge those brands to examine the 1,180-page Notice of Proposed Rulemaking released by the CPSC last week, because this is what they signed on to support.”