Industry faces tough realities of new tip-over standards

Understanding and open communication of issue will be critical among retailers, importers and manufacturers

About a year ago, a long-time industry friend described the proposed new tip-over standards for clothing storage units as having an even bigger impact on the case goods business than Covid-19.

At the time, that was hard to imagine, especially given the issues the industry was facing — from skyrocketing container and materials costs — to historically high lead times for goods, domestic or import.

But now that there are two competing mandatory standards out there including one from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and one awaiting final approval in Congress known as STURDY, it’s easy to see how that’s the case. Both have different testing parameters that make it hard for anyone to know exactly how to adjust engineering specifications to keep their products from tipping over and hurting children — or worse.

“We don’t want companies to think that if they test with 60 pounds and their unit doesn’t tip, they’re good to go,” one source familiar with both proposals said of a proposed increase in the test weight in the current voluntary standard from 50 to 60 pounds. “They are in for a rude awakening.”

Actually updates for testing methodologies in the current ASTM voluntary standard have been approved, the source noted. However, they will not be published until the full passage of STURDY (Stop Tipovers of Risky Dressers on Youth) Act.

But once STURDY is passed and signed into law, it paves the way for the updates to be published and for the CPSC to adopt the updated F2507 as the mandatory standard, which is among the key components of STURDY.

“If STURDY fails, an updated F2057 would be pointless since the CPSC rule will eliminate the voluntary standard,” the source said.

Thus, the industry remains in limbo at best — at least until STURDY passes, hopefully by year end.

The good news is that information is getting out to the industry on the issue, and companies — manufacturers, importers and retailers alike — are getting up to speed regarding this hugely complex issue.

For those that aren’t up to speed, here’s another thing to consider that makes this whole issue perhaps the most important facing the case goods business in years. Not complying with a federal safety standard could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and possible jail time for those firms that knowingly sell defective products and fail to report known safety hazards that would trigger a recall at the CPSC.

“Once they figure out that is the real down side, they will get on board,” said another source of the potential criminal penalties.

Of course the most important thing here is protecting children who are extremely prone to tip-over accidents that result in injuries and deaths. That is the whole reason concerned parents groups have fought so long and hard to stop these incidents from happening in the first place.

So for those manufacturers, importers and retailers that previously brushed this issue under the rug, it’s not only time to start paying attention. It’s time to start figuring out how to make your products compliant once the mandatory standard is in effect.

Obviously any success the industry has in meeting this standard — be it the CPSC standard or STURDY — also will depend on frequent and open communication.

The American Home Furnishings Alliance has done this for many years through a combination of member alerts and industry press releases — to demonstrations of proposed testing methods at its annual Regulatory Summit events. These have captured plenty of attention among its membership, some of which have started to come up with solutions of their own ranging from new drawer glides to the re-engineering of pieces.

But the AHFA’s efforts can only go so far. The success in meeting any federal safety standard also depends on active communication between manufacturers and/or importers and their retail customers who need to make sure what they are selling on their floors is fully compliant, lest they want to find themselves at the center of a lawsuit from a customer whose child is injured or killed.

Communication also must begin on this issue — if it hasn’t already — between importers and their global manufacturing partners. That’s because the factories will be the ones that execute the engineering and construction of clothing storage units based on the mandatory standard.

Yet one source who has been emailing factories overseas on the issue for months, said that some manufacturing partners are reacting to the news of the standard with surprise now that it’s starting to become a reality. The message the source has for those factories? “Get your best English-speaking team member on the case. You need to get up to speed on this issue today.”

Some that can’t or don’t wish to comply may have to find themselves getting out of the bedroom category altogether. Or it may require some companies that can’t pass the test to drop certain clothing storage pieces such as chests or dressers in favor of a storage bed.

But we know this for sure: Just ignoring the issue will get your company in big trouble, particularly if you get caught selling non-compliant goods. Worse still, it could cause your product to hurt or kill a child. There’s no amount of money that can erase the guilt associated with that.

Thomas Russell

Home News Now Editor-in-Chief Thomas Russell has covered the furniture industry for 25 years at various daily and weekly consumer and trade publications. He can be reached at and at 336-508-4616.

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