Last week, I travelled to High Point, NC, the “Furniture Capital of the World,” to attend a Furniture Safety Meeting organized by the American Home Furnishings Alliance (“AHFA”). Close to 70 people came to this meeting to discuss how we may better address the hidden and deadly hazards of furniture and TV tip overs. Furniture and/or television tip overs send a child to an Emergency Department every 24 minutes and kill a child every two weeks. Other colleagues attending the meeting included furniture and electronics industry representatives, consumer advocates, and safety experts. Coverage about the event may be found here, here, and here.
I was very encouraged by the meeting and hope that as a result of the discussions, we will see significant improvements in the voluntary standard and that we will see them quickly.
I was asked to give the opening remarks for the meeting. I took the opportunity to firmly reiterate my position that, although the current voluntary standard requires some inherent stability of clothing storage units over 30 inches in height, it simply does not go far enough to make furniture stable and safe in many real-life situations. Some in the group clearly agree since their companies manufacture furniture that exceeds the standard. So, we all know it can be done. The voluntary standard needs to be improved quickly and effectively. I was delighted to hear some in the room articulate that view strongly.
While the voluntary standard process is going forward, there are some things that industry should do immediately that could be very effective.
First, the preamble to the voluntary standard should be immediately eliminated. Some in the industry are arguing that the nonsensical preamble allows them to avoid even meeting the minimal stability requirements contained in the present standard and, effectively, puts all the burden on the consumer to use tip over restraints, which everyone knows is rarely done.
Second, one of the most important things the industry should do in the near-term, is make sure that the entire industry abides by its own voluntary standard that at least requires some stability. We all know (and as I have posted about before) some very big players currently do not. Some excellent ideas were raised in the meeting as to how the industry could do just that.
Third, industry should do more to educate consumers about the hidden hazard of tip overs and find creative ways to make it easier for consumers to anchor their furniture in ways that do not require holes in walls or tools.
I was very encouraged to hear Bill Perdue, AHFA’s Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, state in no uncertain terms, that manufacturers must meet all aspects of the voluntary standard, including the inherent safety performance test, and not just rely on anchoring devices. As Mr. Perdue stated, anchoring devices were never meant to be the primary method of achieving furniture stability, but are simply an additional layer of safety AFTER the furniture already meets the standard. I hope industry takes these words to heart.
The day closed with an official Task Group meeting on the voluntary standard. The participants suggested many promising avenues for future improvements in the voluntary standard. I hope to see these ideas, and others, fully aired in the upcoming Subcommittee meeting in October. Too many children keep getting killed or injured for us to lose momentum in this effort to make furniture stable and safe.
Finally, I must say that some of CPSC’s wonderful staff also presented at the meeting. Our engineers John Massale, Arthur Lee, and Michael Taylor, gave excellent presentations about CPSC staff’s ideas for making furniture more stable and other creative ways of anchoring furniture and preventing tip overs. Their professionalism, creativity, and dedication are such an inspiration. It is truly an honor to have them represent the CPSC.
As I said to those at the meeting last week, I am hopeful that we can get to a time when our Anchor It! campaign is obsolete and all new furniture produced, sold and bought is inherently stable. Until that time, please remember to always Anchor It!