CPSC: Mandatory stability standard for clothing storage units remains valid

Agency says industry should follow its rule while it reviews the requirements of STURDY

WASHINGTON — The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission said in a court filing this week that its current mandatory stability standard for clothing storage units published in late November remains valid as it continues to review additional rule-making steps required under the STURDY Act that was signed into law Dec. 29.

The message to the industry? Comply with that standard, which takes effect May 24 for units manufactured from that date on, until it deems otherwise.

The Jan. 17 filing is the latest in a series of motions relating to a Dec. 12 petition the American Home Furnishings Alliance and two other petitioners filed asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to issue a stay in the CPSC’s mandatory standard because of industry concerns about the rule. The petitioners also have asked the court to perform an expedited hearing of the matter.

On Dec. 28, the court denied an expedited review of the case and also decided to consider the issue regarding a stay at the same time it conducts its review, which officials interpret as the court not granting a stay anytime soon.

On Jan. 6, given the developments with STURDY (Stop Tip-Overs of Risky Dressers on Youth), the AHFA and the other petitioners asked the court to reconsider this decision.

The CPSC said in its Jan. 17 filing that the approval of STURDY provides no basis on which the court should reconsider its Dec. 28 order.

“Congress in STURDY gave the Consumer Product Safety Commission one year to perform additional rule-making steps with respect to a mandatory safety standard to prevent injuries and deaths to young children from clothing storage-unit tip-overs,” the CPSC said in its filing. “The commission is evaluating the rule-making steps required by STURDY and, as it undertakes that process within the time specified by Congress, will determine what actions are appropriate with respect to its current rule.”

The CPSC went on to say that STURDY requires its final safety standard for clothing storage units to take effect 180 days after the standard is implemented.

It added that it is evaluating the additional rule-making steps required by STURDY, but notes that since the law was passed just recently, it is “currently unclear to what extent the commission’s current standard might need to be changed in light of STURDY’s requirements.” It noted that it will perform the rule-making steps required by Congress within the time limits specified and “will determine what steps are appropriate with respect to its current rule.”

It noted, however, that its current rule remains valid since Congress did not include any language in STURDY that would impact the current rule while CPSC implements the requirements of the statute.

Much hinges on the approval and publication of the voluntary standard, ASTM F2057-23. AHFA officials say that CPSC must evaluate and determine whether it will use this updated voluntary standard as the basis for the mandatory rule required by STURDY.

The updated standard must be published within 60 days of STURDY’s passage. It is expected to be published by mid-February.

The CPSC addressed this in its filing, noting, “If and when ASTM’s voluntary standard is finalized and published within the time allowed by STURDY, the commission will review that standard in accordance with STURDY and complete the other rule-making steps that Congress has required to reduce and prevent deaths and injuries to young children caused by clothing storage unit tip-overs. In undertaking that process, the commission will determine what steps are appropriate with respect to its current rule in light of Congress’s requirements. Petitioners have not set forth any basis for this court to preempt that process.”

In a separate motion filed Jan. 18, the AHFA and the two other petitioners continued to argue that the passage of STURDY supports a stay.

“CPSC agrees that STURDY’s passage is a significant new wrinkle that muddies the waters and requires reassessing the final rule,” the petitioners’ filing states. “CPSC thus claims (the) need to contemplate (its) next regulatory steps at an unspecified pace. At the same time, CPSC insists on forcing industry’s immediate compliance with — and this court’s consideration of — a complex rule that could sunset as soon as it takes effect.”

It noted that a dissenting CPSC commissioner’s vote against CPSC’s mandatory standard warned that legislative events might soon overtake its rule.

“Now that they have, CPSC offers no solutions to its self-created compliance conundrum.” the Jan 18 filing notes.

In addition the Jan. 18 filing notes, “Petitioners fully agree that STURDY and ASTM F-2057-23 mean work for CPSC,” although they also noted that staying the CPSC rule would aid in the agency’s decision making, “not preempt it.”

Adds Andy Counts, chief executive officer of the AHFA: “We disagree with CPSC’s understanding of what they are congressionally mandated to do under STURDY,” he told Home News Now. “If Congress considered the agency’s rule adequate for addressing the furniture tip-over hazard, there would have been no need to pass STURDY, which calls for a new rulemaking.”

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 tom@homenewsnow.com and at 336-508-4616.

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