Nearing a Tipping Point on a Mandatory Furniture Tip-Over Standard?

September 29, 2015

Currently, furniture makers and retailers may opt to comply with voluntary stability and tip-over standards established by the American Society for Testing Materials (ASTM). The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) cannot mandate a recall for noncompliance with the voluntary standard absent finding a substantial product safety hazard. However, in the wake of the CPSC’s release of a 30-page study published in May and the more recent, highly publicized IKEA wall-anchor replacement program for 27 million pieces of furniture, prompted in part by the reported deaths of two children, at least one CPSC commissioner is signaling that a mandatory standard may be needed and forthcoming.

At a furniture safety symposium meeting on August 18 of this year, CPSC Commissioner Marietta Robinson signaled that the CPSC may be considering making the currently voluntary ASTM standards mandatory in the future. Robinson began the meeting by telling furniture manufacturers that it is “unrealistic” to think that the safety problem can be addressed by educating consumers to use tip restraints. Robinson noted that while the CPSC favors voluntary standards when effective and when an industry can demonstrate widespread compliance, she felt that the voluntary standards were “insufficient” and that the industry needs to work toward “broader compliance.”

The CPSC estimates that 71 children every day are involved in tip-over incidents, and one child dies in such an incident every two weeks. The CPSC has already been making tip-over awareness and prevention a priority for 2015. In June, it allocated $400,000 for a national awareness campaign titled “Anchor It.” Nonetheless, Robinson’s recent comments suggest that the CPSC may be shifting its attention away from consumer education and toward mandatory industry compliance.

The ASTM Subcommittee on Furniture Safety is scheduled to meet on October 8, 2015, to consider tip-over safety and reduction of tip-over incidents.