Units not installed properly can fall, posing a high risk of injury or death
HIGH POINT – While most industry attention has been on the safety of clothing storage units in the past decade or more, another category could find itself under the radar of consumer and public safety advocates.
Bestar’s recent recall of 182,000 wall beds — including 53,000 in Canada — has alerted the public to the possible dangers of such products, occurring after one of the units fell and killed a 79-year-old woman in July 2018. There also were another 60 bruises and other injuries reported by consumers after the units detached from the wall.
Yet how the company handled the recall could help retailers and other distributors of this product know how to approach such situations moving forward.
The company said it took action a year before the actual recall announced by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission in early April. After receiving reports that the units were detaching from the wall and falling on consumers, Bestar did a mass notification last year to alert customers of a potential fall hazard involving several of its models.
The matter is now in the hands of executives with Bestar-Bush, which merged in early 2020 following Bestar’s acquisition of Bush Industries.
“Because they are dropped shipped to the end consumer, we had all of the (customer) contact information,” Michael Evans, President and CEO of Bestar-Bush, told Home News Now. “And we worked through all of the retailers and contacted all of the customers in that go round.”
Evans noted that as part of the CPSC’s Fast Trak recall earlier this year, the company underwent several rounds of revisions to its installation instruction sheets. The products also now have a warning label regarding the proper installation that has to be removed from the product before it can be installed.
In addition, Bestar sent out a new hardware kit that included an additional floor bracket/bracing to help create an additional layer of stability for the units.
“We are making and will continue to make improvements on it as we go so that they just can’t mess it up,” Evans said.
Evans said one of the key tenets of the instructions is that the consumer must make sure to attach related components — such as the frame of the unit — to either wood or metal studs in the wall, versus using something like toggle bolts or hollow wall anchors through a wall or sheet rock.
The company also suggests when in doubt, consumers should use a professional installer and/or inspector to make sure the unit is safely secured to the wall.
As part of the recall announced in April, consumers were entitled to a free inspection if they were uncertain if the unit was installed properly. And if it requires reinstallation they are advised to use a professional installer. Bestar will reimburse consumers for that cost, which is expected to range from $170 to just over $400 — or more if they can provide documentation.
Several weeks into the recall, Evans said that the company hasn’t gotten a large number of calls for inspection or reinstallation of the wall beds.
“We are hoping it stays that way,” he said, noting that some customers have called asking what the problem was as they found the installation instructions to be very clear. “We hope the vast majority of them are safely installed in the first place.”
But he also reiterated the importance of getting an inspection or reinstallation if in doubt, adding that he expects the recall to cost the company hundreds of thousands of dollars related to inspection and reinstallation costs, along with the cost the mailing of notices to customers who bought the units and the hiring of an outside company to handle communications with those consumers.
“We have been working pretty much non-stop for a year now back and forth, and there has been a lot of time spent by our internal resources,” Evans said, adding, that this is the second time the company has used the outside firm to handle all the mailings and notifications to consumers. “We have a range of estimates on how many people will ask for a reimbursement for the inspection.”
At a first glance, there aren’t a significant number of recalls associated with wall beds. The only other related incident occurred in January 2018 when the CPSC recalled 2,300 hardware kits supplied by Rockler Corp. In this situation, the kits used to secure the wooden wall enclosures to the wall studs did not provide adequate bracing support, which the agency said posed serious tip-over and entrapment hazards that can result in death or injuries to children.
The good news is that many suppliers and retailers alike are aware of the potential hazards.
A key in safe installation involves the ability to attach the bed to the stud in the wall, noted Chelsea Williams, a sales and marketing specialist at Murphy Wall Beds. She added that this is specified in its installation instructions and on labeling that attaches l-brackets to the frame.
“We are pretty specific on our instructions…We have been doing that a long time because it is so much of a safety issue,” she said. “If it’s not properly mounted to the wall, it poses a risk.”
In addition, she said, the company has instructional videos on its website that guide consumers through the installation process.
Consumers who are still feel uncomfortable about installing the units themselves, can either find someone in their area to install it or ask the retailer for help with the installation.
Steve Rotman, CEO of Worcester, Mass.-based retailer Rotmans Furniture, said his store is considering adding wall beds to the mix as they provide consumers living in smaller homes and apartments a space-saving solution.
“We haven’t sold any, but we are looking at it because of the change in design of apartments,” he said. “Consumers are becoming more aware of products they didn’t know about before, so there is an interest in that.”
He agreed that instructional videos —and access to professional installers — will be important for consumers buying such products in the future, particularly those who aren’t comfortable installing the units themselves.
“I think we have to begin to understand that consumers are going to want these products, but are going to need professional installers in order to do it,” Rotman said.