The US CPSC has determined that there is an unreasonable risk of injury and death, particularly to children, associated with clothing storage units (CSU) tipping over. This rule requires CSU to be tested for stability, exceed minimum stability requirements, bear labels containing safety and identification information, and display a hang tag providing performance and technical data about the stability of the CSU.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) published a new mandatory furniture tip-over standard in the Federal Register on November 25, 20221. The Commission amends chapter II, subchapter B, Title 16 of the Code of Federal Regulations to add Part 1261 Safety Standard for Clothing Storage Units (CSU). The rule goes into effect 180 days after its publication, meaning furniture manufacturers and importers will have until 24 May 2023, to make sure their product complies with the standard. The CPSC rule purports to address the hazard posed to small children due to stability issue of CSU.
The rule applies to CSU that are freestanding furniture items, typically used for storing clothes. Examples of CSUs include chests, bureaus, dressers, chests of drawers, drawer chests, door chests, chifforobes, armoires and wardrobes.
The CPSC defines a CSU as a freestanding furniture item with drawer(s) and/or door(s), that may be reasonably expected to be used for storing clothing, that possesses the following attributes:
- Designed to be configured to greater than or equal to 27 inches in height
- Has a mass greater than or equal to 57 pounds with all extendable elements filled with at least 8.5 pounds/cubic foot times their functional volume (cubic feet)
- Has a total functional volume of the closed storage greater than 1.3 cubic feet, and
- Has a total functional volume of the closed storage greater than the sum of the total functional volume of the open storage and the total volume of the open space
CSU stability requirements are now required to “reflect real-world factors, like multiple open drawers, drawers containing clothing-representative loads, angling CSUs to replicate the effects of placement on the carpet and the forces a child exerts while climbing or pulling on a CSU, all of which are shown to occur during CSU tip-overs and contribute to their instability.”
The rule requires determination of a CSU’s stability rating. This is a comparison between the CSU’s tip-over moment and the threshold moment. First, the tip-over moment measures at what force the CSU becomes unstable and is calculated using one of two methods selected by unit design. The tip-over moment is then compared to three “threshold moments,” which simulate various scenarios of child interaction. The threshold moment reflecting the worst-case scenario is selected. The CSU stability rating is then calculated by dividing the CSU’s tip-over moment by its threshold moment.
A CSU must have a minimum stability rating of 1, where 1 indicates the unit is sufficiently stable to withstand tipping over when a child is climbing or playing on the unit.
Important considerations that distinguish the rule from other stability methods include:
- Placing the CSU on a test block to replicate the tilt induce by carpet
- Testing with drawers loaded with 8.5 pounds of weight per cubic foot to simulate drawers filled with clothing
- A separate strength test for units with interlocks
The rule also includes updated labeling requirements including:
- A warning label (not consistent with ASTM F2057)
- A hangtag that provides stability rating calculated by testing
- The statement “Complies with U.S. CPSC Safety Standard for Clothing Storage Units”
- Manufacturer identification marking
- Requirements regarding location and label permanency
The final rule prohibits manufacturers and importers of CSU from manufacturing or importing products that do not comply with the requirements of the rule in any one-month period between the date the rule is promulgated and the effective date of the rule at a rate that is greater than 105% of the rate at which they manufactured or imported CSUs during the base period for the manufacturer. The rule defines the base period as the calendar month with the median manufacturing or import volume within the last 13 months immediately preceding the month of promulgation of the final rule. This is the same limit as proposed in the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPR).
The American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA), which represents an alliance of over 200 furniture manufacturers and importers has called the rule “complex” and said that a better understanding is required for the industry. According to industry viewpoint, “the Safety Standard for Clothing Storage Units published by the CPSC is a very complex rule with a proposed minimum stability threshold that will generate many questions as manufacturers and importers attempt to implement it across a wide array of products.”
The AHFA is seeking a judicial review of the CPSC rule and has filed a petition for judicial review of the CPSC Safety Standard for clothing storage units, seeking to have the rule vacated. The petition was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on December 8, 2022.
There has been an increase in regulatory activity recently related clothing storage units sold in the US. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has revised ASTM F2057-19, the existing voluntary standard for safety specification for clothing storage units, to a proposed F2057-22 version to be effective in Q2 2023. The US Senate has incorporated the ASTM Standard in STURDY Act passed by Congress in Dec. 23 as part of the $1.7 trillion fiscal 2023 omnibus spending bill. It was signed into law when President Biden signed the spending package.
With two versions of safety standards that differ in the scope of their requirements there is confusion in the marketplace and uncertainty with major implications for retailers, importers and manufacturers. However, as of May 24, 2023, CSU that are freestanding furniture items must comply with the new mandatory furniture tip-over standard (16 CFR Part 1261) published by Consumer Product Safety Commission.
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