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From Home Furnishing Business

CPSC Adds Flammability, Tip-Over Projects to Annual Plan

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission unanimously adopted two amendments to its 2016 Operating Plan yesterday, one addressing upholstered furniture flammability and a second addressing the voluntary furniture tip-over standard.

The CPSC’s annual Operating Plan sets budget priorities and strategic goals for the year. 

The 2016 plan already included funding for CPSC staff to continue developing performance standards to address the hazards associated with upholstered furniture fires. The amendment from Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle directs staff to investigate the merits of adopting California Technical Bulletin 117-2013 among those standards. 

Buerkle said her amendment was prompted by an October 2015 petition from the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) proposing that the commission adopt the California regulation as a national, mandatory flammability standard under the Flammable Fabrics Act. The petition was filed by AHFA on behalf of a joint industry coalition that includes the foam, textile, fiber and cotton industries, as well as the North American Home Furnishings Association and the International Association of Fire Fighters. 

“It’s unusual for us to have so many stakeholders coming to us with the same position on an issue,” Buerkle said. The commission approved her amendment 5-0. 

The CPSC’s 2016 Operating Plan also already included funding for CPSC staff to continue evaluating furniture tip-over incident data as part of its review of the voluntary ASTM furniture tip-over standard. But Commissioners Marietta Robinson and Joseph Mohorovic together proposed a “tip-over amendment” asking staff to prepare a briefing package with data on current compliance with the voluntary standard – including an approximation of the market share held by products not in compliance. 

Further, the briefing package is to include information on whether the new tip restraint standard (ASTM F3096) limits the use of more easily installed anchoring systems and potential alternative solutions. 

In introducing the amendment, Robinson described the current voluntary standard as “minimal.” 

“And we have a compliance problem, with even this minimum standard,” she said. 

The amendment requesting more data was “driven by the questions we heard at the voluntary standard committee meeting,” Robinson said. “They really want data to show what they need to do in coming up with an engineering solution” to the furniture tip-over problem.

Mohorovic told the commission his office did an in-depth analysis of emergency room data and determined that more than half of the injuries from tip-over accidents were sustained in incidents involving only furniture. What we don’t know, he said, is what percentage of those incidents involved furniture that complied with the voluntary standard.

“Before staff can credibly recommend changes to (the voluntary standard), we have to have the data to show whether the current standard is effective ... because we really don’t know,” he said.

The commission unanimously approved the tip-over amendment.

“The ‘tip-over amendment’ is directly related to AHFA’s advocacy efforts and to the work of the ASTM Furniture Safety Subcommittee task groups,” said Bill Perdue, AHFA vice president of regulatory affairs and chair of the ASTM Furniture Safety Subcommittee. “Each group has been deeply involved in researching possible improvements to the voluntary tip-over standard. The amendment supports the position that any changes to the standard be based on sound data.

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