On Tuesday, March 1, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) voted to deny a request by the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) for an extension of the public comment period on the agency's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) for Clothing Storage Furniture.
The original April 19, 2022, deadline for submitting comments on the 1,100-page proposed rule stands.
The Home Furnishings Association joined AHFA in requesting the extended comment period.
In drafting the NPR, CPSC staff relied heavily on data underlying its 2020 tip-over injuries and fatalities report released in January 2021. AHFA requested access to that underlying data when the report was first released, but CPSC declined to provide it. As a result, AHFA filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the data in June 2021.
One month later, CPSC released its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Clothing Storage Furniture, and AHFA once again requested action on its FOIA request.
In August 2021, CPSC responded by informing the alliance there would be a $3,700 fee for the requested data. AHFA promptly confirmed it would pay the fee. Still, there was no action from CPSC.
When CPSC published the NPR in the Federal Register on February 2, a 75-day comment period began. Still lacking the necessary data to inform its response, AHFA formally requested an extension in the comment period and once again asked the commission to expedite a response to its FOIA request.
Eight months after the original FOIA was filed, CPSC finally provided partial data in mid-February. The full data request was not satisfied until February 18.
"The trade associations will have more than 60 days after receipt of the data to complete their comments," CPSC Chair Alex Hoehn-Saric said in a statement on the denial. "An extension of the comment period on (the) proposed rule would likely delay the delivery of a final rule," he added.
AHFA and its member companies have spent the eight months since the NPR was released reviewing and analyzing the proposed testing protocol in the rule. More than 1,000 units across all style categories and price points have been tested, and none met the NPR’s minimum threshold for stability without significant product modifications, such as adding drawer interlocks or substantial counterweight or both – even though all units tested met or exceeded the stability requirements in the current voluntary standard, ASTM F2057-19.
Further, the testing produced variable results, leading the AHFA companies to more detailed analysis of the testing protocol.
Now, with thousands of additional pages of data in hand, AHFA has begun an entirely different review of the NPR – analyzing the injury and fatality data that led CPSC staff to conclude that it should focus on incidents involving children up to three years of age and their specific interactions with a piece of clothing storage furniture. That data also informed the NPR’s specific performance requirements and the design of the proposed stability tests.
Industry stakeholders wishing to comment on the NPR must do so by April 19, following the instructions provided on the first page of the NPR in the Federal Register and referencing docket number CPSC-2017-0044.
CPSC also has announced that oral comments will be heard on April 6, 2022, via a webinar beginning at 10 a.m. Attendees must pre-register for the webinar online at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/?register/?4382433867276269835.
Any individual interested in making an oral presentation must register for the webinar and submit a request to speak. Requests, along with the written text of the oral presentation, should be directed to the Division of the Secretariat by 5 p.m. EST on March 23, 2022.
For AHFA, this deadline is just 22 business days after receiving the data it requested from the CPSC in June 2021.