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Testing marketing claims of furniture stability

May 30, 2017

Preparing for a baby requires planning, lots and lots of it. From selecting a qualified pediatrician to agreeing on the perfect shade of blue, soon-to-be parents are continually planning. But, the one thing parents never plan for is the accidental injury or death of a child.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), a child is killed every two weeks when a television or piece of furniture, such as a dresser or chest, falls on him or her. Additionally, a staggering 91 percent of tip-over fatalities occur in the home and a child goes to the emergency room every 24 minutes because of a tip-over incident.

The causes of injuries or deaths from tip-overs are largely unknown, but where it is known, climbing is the common thread in 65 percent of the incidents.

Related , UL Lab helps bring value to furniture manufacturers

A Natural Instinct

Young children (ages 2-5) were born to climb. Like every other developmental milestone, climbing is a skill mastered incrementally over several years. Climbing typically starts with crawling over objects and progresses to climbing onto objects such as furniture. As adults, we know that the challenge of climbing up the dresser isn’t worth the risk, but the average child doesn’t recognize the potential dangers involved. They only see something they want, and they act, sometimes with deadly consequences.

Details from the CPSC’s incident reports show that of the accidents where climbing is listed as the cause, the children involved were reaching for an object such as a toy or a remote control. Some were trying to turn on a television on top the dresser.

A Danger to Manufacturers Too

Tip-overs pose risks to manufacturers and the brand labels the furniture is sold under too. Between 2014-2016, more than 29 million dressers and bookshelves were recalled due to reports of injuries or death. Additional costs to businesses include lawsuits and settlements, marketing the recall, disposal fees, customer complaints and the cost to remake and reship replacements. Of course, no one can place a value on human life, but for companies, big and small, the risk is not worth the damage to brand reputation or the organization's bottom line.

Testing the Standard

In 2016, two consumer advocacy groups, Kids In Danger (KID) and Shane’s Foundation, selected UL’s Furniture Testing Division in Holland, Mich., to conduct safety testing to determine compliance with ASTM F2057-14, also known as the Standard Safety Specification for Clothing Storage Units (CSU).

In like manner, the CPSC performed its own 2016 testing of CSU’s, concluding in their Briefing Package that “staff believes more work needs to be done to effectively address the risk of tip-over incidents.”

UL Verified Mark Program for Furniture

In response to these critical challenges, UL developed a marketing claim Verification Program to highlight products that exceed industry standards. The Verification program, which provides more stringent testing of furniture, allows for the identification of weaknesses in furniture design across a variety of possible settings. For example, testing is performed on both carpeted and hard floors as well as additional screening such as increased weight added to the drawer and multiple drawers opened when load is applied to simulate climbing, to show the product exceeds current industry standards.

“As the father of a three-year-old, I feel very passionate about this new Mark,” says Michael O’Hara, Director of UL’s Global Furniture Business Unit.

With UL’s new program, manufacturers have the opportunity to verify their marketing claims of stability to differentiate their products in consumers’ minds. The claim Verification is not a substitute for wall anchoring and products will continue to include instructions advising users to anchor furniture to the wall.

Moreover, for parents? The UL Verified Mark is a start to identifying and purchasing furniture manufactured and designed for stability.

“Anchor and Protect”

Ultimately, caregivers are tasked with providing a safe environment for their child. Here are a few things to consider:

·       Do your homework and research furniture before purchase. Sturdier furniture performed better in tip-over tests, according to the CPSC’s results, as does a wider base.

·       Carefully consider object placement and look at rooms in your house from your child’s point of view. What could they possibly find interesting? Remember, a child may be physically adept, but their ability to reason and consider the implications of their actions has not yet developed.

·       Finally, always secure tip-over prone furniture to the wall through an approved anchoring system.

The world is full of hidden dangers, let’s not make your home one of them.

Related: CPSC’s Tip-Over Prevention Center