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Regulatory Compliance, Furniture Stability, AHFA, Product Safety

Updates Advance for New Stability Rule

Executives attending AHFA’s 2022 Summit in August received timely updates on all legislative and regulatory activities related to a new mandatory furniture stability standard.

Chief among the recent advances is the approval by the ASTM F15.42 Furniture Safety Subcommittee of three new stability tests for the F2057 voluntary standard.   The tests were demonstrated at the Summit and include:

  • A new drawer-loaded test
  • A new carpet impact test
  • A new dynamic force test

In addition, the subcommittee has approved increasing the test weight from 50 to 60 pounds and added a volume measurement to define covered units.

The new volume measurement ends the long debate over excluding smaller nightstands from the standard. If a unit has 3.2 cubic feet of storage volume, is 27 inches or greater in height and weighs 30 or more pounds, it is subject to the stability standard, regardless of the product’s marketing description.

Richard Rosati, chair of the ASTM F15.42 subcommittee and vice president of governmental affairs and industry standards for Bureau Veritas, told Summit attendees that the approval of these revisions was critical to advancing a mandatory stability standard. The updates are designed to ensure that the F2057 voluntary standard meets all necessary criteria within STURDY, a bill requiring the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to draft a mandatory furniture stability standard within one year of the bill’s passage.

Earlier this year, AHFA successfully negotiated broad stakeholder agreement on an amended version of STURDY. Unlike the original version of the bill, which allowed the CPSC to use “fast-track” rulemaking and adopt a standard with little input from industry, the amended version requires CPSC to use the voluntary standard as the basis for the mandatory rule – as long as the voluntary standard meets all requirements outlined in STURDY.

Those requirements include testing with 60 pounds and testing that simulates “real world use,” including testing that accounts for the impact on stability when a unit is placed on carpet, when all the drawers are full, and when subjected to the “dynamic force” of a child playing on the unit.

Members of the Senate Commerce Committee approved this amended version of STURDY May 11 after receiving a letter supporting the measure signed by AHFA, Parents Against Tip-overs, KID (Kids in Danger), Consumer Reports, The Consumer Federation of America, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the retail Home Furnishings Association.

The letter stated, “After several rounds of language negotiations involving majority and minority Commerce Committee staff, an extraordinary coalition … reached agreement on legislative text.”

Now STURDY awaits introduction to the full Senate, where stakeholders hope it will be passed by “unanimous consent” this month – an action that is only possible with bi-partisan support and the full backing of all stakeholders.

Without the use of unanimous consent, House and Senate advocates of STURDY could seek another legislative vehicle to which the bill could be attached later this year, such as a government funding package. But if they fail to find a vehicle to advance the legislation, it will die at the end of 2022.

Boaz Green, a consumer product attorney with Neal Cohen Law and former chief counsel to CPSC Commissioner Marietta Robinson, told Summit attendees that, if STURDY fails, CPSC is likely to continue down the long path to adopting the proposed furniture stability rule it published in February this year.

The CPSC rule proposes to substantially alter the bedroom furniture category with new testing and labeling requirements, including:

  • Replacing the current pass/fail stability tests with a stability rating
  • Requiring a complex series of calculations to arrive at that stability rating for each unit;
  • Displaying each unit’s stability rating on a mandatory new 5-by-7-inch hangtag.

After testing hundreds of clothing storage units in all price points and styles earlier this year, AHFA safety task force members found no units that could achieve the minimum stability rating of “1” as defined in the CPSC’s rule. Some units, particularly those with a drawer interlock system, required minor modifications to reach a rating of 1. Those without interlocks, however, required significant modifications to reach the minimum tip rating, including adding substantial weight to the back of the unit and/or changing the unit’s design. AHFA members also found that the rule would greatly increase packing and shipping costs.

Rosati explained to Summit attendees that, if the amended STURDY fails in the Senate, the ASTM Furniture Safety Subcommittee will abandon its update to the voluntary standard.  While the updated voluntary standard aligns with the objectives in STURDY, it is dramatically different from the complex testing and rating system proposed in the CPSC’s rule. Therefore, retaining the voluntary standard would result in confusing and disparate guidance for manufacturers seeking to market compliant products as they wait – potentially for years – for CPSC to finalize a rule.