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Regulatory Compliance, Furniture Stability, AHFA, Product Safety

STURDY Act Passed As Part of 2023 Omnibus

The Stop Tip-overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth Act – known as STURDY – was passed by Congress in December as part of the $1.7 trillion fiscal 2023 omnibus spending bill. It was signed into law when President Biden signed the spending package. 

As is common at the end of a congressional session, the omnibus package carried numerous bills unrelated to federal spending that legislators didn’t have the time to move separately as stand-alone bills. The STURDY Act was among those measures. 

“We applaud the passage of the STURDY Act, which has finally placed us on track for a rigorous, mandatory furniture stability rule supported by all stakeholders,” said AHFA CEO Andy Counts in December. 

The STURDY Act requires the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to adopt an updated version of the ASTM International F2057 voluntary standard as a new mandatory safety rule, if it is found to meet all performance requirements outlined in STURDY.

Those requirements include objective, repeatable and measurable tests that simulate real-world use of clothing storage furniture, including testing with multiple drawers open and with all drawers loaded. Testing also must account for the impact on stability when units are placed on carpeting and when small children climb or play on the unit.

Revisions to meet these requirements were developed by ASTM’s Furniture Safety Subcommittee late last summer. The proposed new performance tests then were subjected to an inter-laboratory review in October to ensure each test could be repeated precisely and consistently. 

“With the updated ASTM standard as the foundation, this new product safety rule will provide manufacturers with a clear pathway to compliance,” said Bill Perdue, AHFA’s vice president of regulatory affairs.

In a new timeline negotiated by AHFA among key stakeholders in the last weeks of 2022 and included in the amended STURDY Act passed on December 23, ASTM has 60 days to publish the revisions described above, officially updating F2057 to meet the requirements outlined in STURDY. Then, CPSC will have 90 days to review the updated voluntary standard and decide whether it will adopt it in whole or in part as the new mandatory stability rule for clothing storage furniture. 

“Industry, parents and consumer advocates have all agreed that the revisions to ASTM F2057 result in a robust safety standard that will reduce furniture tip-overs and improve protections for small children,” Counts stated. “All of these stakeholders look forward to CPSC’s prompt action to adopt F2057 as the federal safety rule mandated in STURDY.”

The new stability rule will go into effect 120 days after it is promulgated by CPSC. This rule will supersede the final rule CPSC adopted in November 2022, which it developed largely without stakeholder input and approved despite broad stakeholder opposition. It would have gone into effect May 24, 2023.

“AHFA opposed the CPSC rule because the complex process of determining a unit’s ‘stability rating’ added unnecessary ambiguity to compliance efforts,” Perdue explained. “Further, there was so much variability in the prescribed test methods that, even six weeks after the rule’s publication, we know of no test lab that would agree to perform third-party verification of a manufacturer’s test results. There was no clear pathway for home furnishings companies to comply and, consequently, no clear pathway for regulators to actually enforce the new rule.”

AHFA also maintained that the redesign, testing, packaging and shipping costs resulting from the rule would disproportionately impact lower-cost units and make all clothing storage furniture more expensive without improving safety.

In the revised F2057 standard, three tests are prescribed: one with all drawers loaded with 8.5 pounds per cubic foot, based on the calculated volume of each drawer; one simulating the impact on stability when the unit is placed on carpeting; and a third simulating the dynamic force of a toddler grabbing onto the highest “hand-hold” (typically a drawer pull or knob). Units must remain upright during all three pass/fail tests to be deemed compliant.  

An outline of the methodology for the three tests is available to AHFA members with permission from ASTM International, which maintains a copyright on all its safety specifications. The document is available in the members-only toolbox.