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Furniture Stability

'STURDY' Proposes Swift Rulemaking

Momentum is building behind proposed legislation designed to reduce the number of furniture tip-over accidents involving children and clothing storage units.

Known as STURDY, the Stop Tip-overs of Unstable Risky Dressers on Youth Act (H.R.1314) was reintroduced in the House by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) on February 24. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) reintroduced it in the Senate (S.441) February 25.

STURDY passed the House in 2019 but it failed to advance in the Senate prior to the end of the 116th Congress.

The bill would require the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to promulgate a mandatory safety regulation for “free-standing clothing storage units.” The legislation specifies certain performance tests CPSC must include in the regulation. These include:

  • Performance test methods that simulate the weight of children up to 60 pounds;
  • Tests that evaluate the impact of carpeting on furniture stability;
  • Tests that evaluate the impact of loaded drawers and multiple open drawers on stability; and,
  • Tests that evaluate the dynamic force of a child up to 60 pounds pulling, climbing or playing on the furniture.

STURDY specifically authorizes CPSC to create this regulation in accordance with Section 553 of the Administrative Procedure Act. This abbreviated and informal process is known as “notice and comment rulemaking.”

Unlike CPSC rulemaking under Sections 7 and 9 of the Consumer Product Safety Act, Section 553 rulemaking requires only that the proposed regulation is published in the Federal Register and that public comments be invited. After a period of review, the agency may choose to respond to some of the comments or none of them. The final rule must be published not less than 30 days before its effective date.

If adopted and signed by the President, STURDY grants CPSC the ability to revise this new regulation at any time, including to reflect any updates in the weight of children up to 72 months of age based on national clinical growth charts.

“The American Home Furnishings Alliance supports a mandatory stability standard that holds all manufacturers and importers to rigorous safety requirements for clothing storage units to help prevent furniture tip-over incidents,” states AHFA CEO Andy Counts.

“To that end, AHFA welcomed CPSC’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking in November 2017 for a mandatory furniture stability regulation under Sections 7 and 9 of the Consumer Product Safety Act. Acting CPSC Chair Bob Adler has said repeatedly that the development of this regulation is ‘well underway.’”

Sections 7 and 9 of the CPSA require the agency to take certain procedural steps when developing mandatory regulations.  For example, the Commission must issue a “final regulatory analysis” that includes a detailed cost-benefit analysis. It must assess “reasonable alternatives” to the final regulation and justify why these alternatives were not adopted.

In addition, CPSC must document specific factual findings. For example, the agency must detail why the mandatory regulation is necessary to eliminate or reduce an unreasonable risk of injury associated with the regulated product. The agency must further show that its regulation imposes the least burdensome requirement to prevent or adequately reduce the risk of injury. And the benefits expected from implementing the new regulation must “bear a reasonable relationship to its costs.”

Finally, the CPSA authorizes any party that is or would be impacted by a mandatory consumer safety regulation to file a lawsuit challenging the regulation in a U.S. Court of Appeals. The court can set aside the regulation if it finds the CPSC acted unlawfully, abused its discretion or otherwise acted in an arbitrary or capricious manner.

“All of these checks and balances provide the necessary due process to assure an objective, relevant, realistic and effective standard,” says Counts. “But these checks and balances are bypassed in the ‘notice and comment’ rulemaking proposed by STURDY.”

STURDY gives CPSC just one year from the time it is enacted to develop a regulation with the specified performance tests. 

Although AHFA would submit comments on behalf of the industry if it found the new regulation did not “bear a reasonable relationship to its costs” or failed to adequately reduce the risk of injury to children, CPSC would be required to do nothing other than receive those comments.

“In Rep. Schakowsky’s press release announcing the reintroduction of STURDY, the need to ‘quickly’ pass the regulation was noted no fewer than six times,” Counts points out.  Proponents of STURDY include the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Reports magazine, Parents Against Tip-overs and Kids in Danger. Just one week after the 2020 election, the groups sent a memo to President Biden’s transition team pushing for, among other actions, swift passage of STURDY in the 117th Congress.