April 17, 2019 – WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced the Stop Tip-Overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth (STURDY) Act of 2019 on April 10. The bill, H.R. 2211, would require the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to promulgate a mandatory stability standard for clothing storage furniture.
The American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) supports a mandatory stability standard that holds all manufacturers to the same safety specifications.
“Since 2000, AHFA members have been industry leaders in helping to develop and update ASTM F2057, the voluntary furniture stability standard,” reported AHFA CEO Andy Counts. “But some companies have chosen to ignore the standard, and this has contributed to many tip-over accidents over the last 20 years involving young children.”
STURDY was first introduced in June 2016 by Schakowsky and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA). The first version gave ASTM International 180 days to publish a “stronger” voluntary stability standard, which the CPSC could then choose to adopt as mandatory. If ASTM did not publish an “adequate” voluntary standard within the specified time period, the bill required CPSC to issue a final, mandatory standard within about 18 months (540 days) of the bill’s passage.
The 114th Congress adjourned in January 2017 with no action on STURDY.
The new version of STURDY introduced last week requires the commission to “examine and assess the effectiveness” of the voluntary standard but requires CPSC to adopt a final mandatory safety standard for clothing storage furniture within one year of the bill’s adoption.
Further, it specifies that the mandatory standard include stability tests for all clothing storage furniture, regardless of height. The current voluntary standard applies to units over 30 inches in height, but a proposed revision expected to be passed this summer would reduce the minimum height of covered units to 27 inches.
The 2019 version of STURDY also requires that the stability tests in the proposed mandatory standard be designed to simulate the weight of a child up to 72 months of age.
Currently, the voluntary standard requires a 50-pound weight to be used in the stability testing. This reflects the 95th percentile weight of a child up to 5 years of age (or 60 months). More than 95 percent of all fatalities involving children and clothing storage furniture from 2000 to 2017 were children age 5 and under.
Over the same 18-year period, four fatalities – 2 percent – involved children between 5 and 6 years of age.
The STURDY Act of 2019 also requires additional product testing to “more closely simulate real world use.” Specifically, the legislation calls for tests that account for the impact of carpeting on clothing storage unit stability, the impact of loaded drawers and the impact of “dynamic force.”
“None of these proposed new tests have been defined or determined to be feasible,” Counts noted.
The ambiguity of the required testing could render the new standard unenforceable, Counts cautioned. “In order for a mandatory standard to be enforceable, the tests must be precise, so every manufacturer – whether domestic or overseas, whether producing low cost furniture or luxury furniture – is able to conduct the test exactly the same way, using specified test materials that remove guesswork and guarantee accurate results.”
CPSC staff met with industry engineers and technical experts at AHFA headquarters in High Point, N.C., this week to discuss recent test methods, dynamic stability testing and heavier test weights.
“CPSC has identified furniture stability as a priority and is already working to develop a mandatory standard. The STURDY Act is unnecessary and would introduce ambiguity into the process,” Counts said. “AHFA is committed to working with CPSC to facilitate the necessary research to determine whether any proposed new tests can be standardized, and a clear pathway to compliance can be established.”