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Safety Recalls Expose Hidden Dangers of Outdoor Furniture

UL Standard can help retailers verify safety before a product hits the showroom floor.

An vignette of two brown wicker chairs solidly resting on an outdoor patio.
April 9, 2019

Outdoor furniture makes up a significant proportion of the product recalls posted to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website. From falls to fingertip amputation, data from the CPSC and the U.S. National Electronic Injury Surveillance System reveals the dangers associated with the use of unsafe outdoor furniture products. 

In 2017, approximately 3,000 people went to the emergency room with outdoor-furniture related injuries, a number that has steadily increased over the last decade.

Even with this magnitude of risk, U.S. safety regulations for outdoor furniture limit their oversight to the use of lead paint and similar surface coatings. This means retailers must rely on their suppliers’ assurances regarding safety or develop their own independent safety criteria to be verified by a third party.

Beyond safety challenges, poor-quality products that fail within established warranty periods create hefty financial penalties. 

In 2016, U.S.-based manufacturers across all industry sectors paid nearly $25 billion to settle product warranty claims, according to WarrantyWeek.com. Additionally, UL’s independent testing on more than 300 different outdoor furniture products revealed that 30-40 percent of the products tested failed to meet their expected durability, which could result in warranty claims.

UL 4041, Outline of Investigation for Outdoor Furniture

After working directly with both manufacturers and global retailers, UL developed a Standard, UL 4041, to address the costly risks of recall. The Standard can help manufacturers and retailers examine the types of product issues that lead to injuries and recalls, which may also lead to a damaged reputation and loss of brand trust.

Outdoor furniture has specific manufacturing challenges which are effectively evaluated in UL 4041. For instance, when patio furniture is designed to be collapsible, it features areas where surfaces fold or separate. Those areas introduce gaps where fingers could be pinched, entrapped or even fingertips amputated if furniture is not carefully constructed with these risks in mind.

Stability must also be considered since outdoor furniture often sits on unstable surfaces like grass, dirt or pavement. Durability is critical as well since patio furniture is exposed to a wide range of extreme environmental conditions like harsh sunlight, precipitation and temperature changes.

The benefits of addressing safety

UL 4041 sets a new threshold for safety for outdoor furniture products. Retailers, suppliers and manufacturers who choose to adhere to this safety Standard will deliver a valuable message to consumers about their commitment to quality and safety. 

To learn more about how UL 4041 can help you ensure safety and quality in outdoor furniture, download our whitepaper or view our webinar for an overview of the specific areas of testing addressed in this UL Standard. 

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