Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports Tries New, Tougher Furniture Tip-Over Test

For almost two decades, furniture stability has been tested using a 50-pound weight, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission says most 5- and 6-year-old children weigh at least 60 pounds, so Consumer Reports decided to put that weight to the test.

Janet McGee’s 22-month-old son Ted died when a dresser fell on him.

“When I opened the door even further, right in front of me was his dresser that had fallen forward, and immediately, ‘Oh my God, it’s so quiet in here. He has to be under it; he’s under it,’” she said.

Dressers are not required to be tested for safety before they're sold, but the furniture industry has voluntary standards for dressers taller than 30 inches. One of those standards is furniture must not tip over when a 50-pound weight is hung across an open top drawer. Safety advocates say that 18-year-old standard is outdated and must change.

“Kids, as we all know, are getting bigger nowadays, and so 60 pounds corresponds, more likely, to the contemporary, the present day average weight for a 5-year-old kid,” Consumer Reports Chief Scientific Officer James Dickerson said.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, children 5 or younger are most likely to be injured or killed when furniture tips over.

Consumer Reports tested 24 different dressers to see if they would stand up to a 60-pound weight. Only 13 models, including Epoch, Pottery Barn and Sauder passed.

Consumer Reports also tested five dressers 30 inches and shorter. All of them failed the 60-pound test and three failed the 50-pound test.

“So we're now putting pressure to include those dressers that are below 30 inches,” Dickerson said.

A spokesperson for the American Home Furnishings Alliance told News4 it looked into changing the test weight to 60 pounds but said after reviewing all available data from the CPSC it has not found evidence to suggest that doing so would reduce the number of incidents involving children 5 or older.

The best way to prevent tragedy in your home is to anchor all of your furniture.

Statement by CPSC Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle:

"I appreciate Consumers Union interest and its work on the furniture tipover issue. Too many children are injured or killed each year by falling furniture and televisions.

"The CPSC is pursuing an aggressive, multipronged approach to reduce tipover injuries. We worked diligently with consumer advocates and industry to develop a strong consensus standard that was adopted in 2014. I believe ASTM 2057-14 standard is a major step forward. However, not all manufacturers are meeting that standard. We have started the rulemaking process to determine if adoption of a mandatory regulation to prevent tipovers of clothing storage units is warranted.

"While we continue to work collaboratively to address this problem, CPSC urges consumers to Anchor It! Properly mounting or anchoring a TV, dresser, and other furniture will prevent these tragic incidents. Anchoring devices are inexpensive, take just 5 minutes to install and can truly save a child’s life. Tipover injuries and deaths are preventable when consumers anchor furniture.

"I am pleased that Consumers Union is adding its powerful voice to our message on the need to anchor furniture securely.

"In addition, consumers should always check to see if their furniture has been recalled at and should act quickly to take advantage of the remedy available."

Statement from American Home Furnishings Alliance:

"The American Home Furnishings Alliance has been asked to respond to a report produced by Consumer Reports on residential furniture stability. AHFA requested a copy of this report on Friday, March 16, when CR provided it to various media outlets. Consumer Reports declined.

"With the report now public (March 22), AHFA has the opportunity to analyze its claims and to review the corresponding product test results in detail. However, based on an initial review, AHFA offers these important clarifications:

  • All fatal incidents cited in the Consumer Reports article involved furniture that did not comply with the ASTM voluntary stability standard. AHFA supports CPSC enforcement of the voluntary standard and the continued removal of non-compliant products from the marketplace.
  • While Consumer Reports claims the current voluntary standard is inadequate, there is nothing in their research nor in the underlying CPSC data linking a heavier test weight to a probability of fewer tip-over accidents.
  • Contrary to the Consumer Reports article, there is a cost associated with compliance to the voluntary standard. Manufacturers who comply with the standard must factor safety into their product design, engineering components for stability in order to pass the current 50-pound tip test.
  • If passing this test was easy, all companies would do it. But CPSC data suggests industry compliance at about 50 percent. This is the plus-side of a proposed mandatory standard: it would level the playing field, making all manufacturers subject to the same safety-related costs.
  • However, there is a down-side to a mandatory standard that the Consumer Reports article ignores. Voluntary standards are more easily updated. Mandatory standards are costly, cumbersome and time-consuming to update. Since it was adopted in 2000, the furniture stability standard has been updated four times to keep pace with new safety concerns and changing product designs. In contrast, when Congress directed the CPSC to adopt a mandatory bunk bed standard in 1999, it quickly become obsolete. It has never been updated to reflect changes in product design and usage and is now incompatible with the voluntary bunk bed standard that has been updated many times since then. These dual standards for bunk beds are confusing for consumers, product manufacturers and regulators.
  • In the Consumer Reports article, CPSC suggests mandatory standards “speed up” the recall process. The agency also claims “practical resources” are lacking to gain industry cooperation with recalls under a voluntary standard. In fact, when a substantial product hazard can be demonstrated, the CPSC has full recall authority. The CPSC recalled more than 1.8 million non-compliant clothing storage units in 2017. All were in cooperation with the manufacturers. (Unfortunately, a poorly executed CPSC action in 2015 allowed millions of non-compliant products to remain in the marketplace until 2016, when additional deaths finally resulted in a recall of the non-compliant products.)

"The American Home Furnishings Alliance has worked with furniture manufacturers, child safety advocates and the CPSC for nearly two decades on safety measures to increase the stability of bedroom storage furniture and to reduce the number of furniture tip-over accidents involving “clothing storage units.”

"AHFA member companies are at the forefront of these efforts. Focused on continual improvement, they factor safety into their product design and have led the industry in making product modifications to achieve increasing stability of clothing storage units. Further, AHFA and its member companies have been the strongest advocates for the voluntary standard, urging ALL manufacturers to comply.

  • AHFA currently is promoting industry compliance through its “WE COMPLY” campaign, which also serves to educate retailers about the importance of eliminating non-compliant inventory from their stores.
  • AHFA is seeking new ways to support consumer education, including a new “mark” that will help consumers easily identify compliant products in stores and online.
  • AHFA also recognizes that every American home contains a mix of older and newer furniture. Many decades of industry research confirms that parents of small children spend the least of nearly any demographic on new furniture. These facts point to one imperative: educating parents to install tip restraints throughout their home at the same time they are installing all other child-proofing devices, like outlet covers and cabinet locks.
  • In support of the CPSC’s “Anchor It!” campaign, AHFA offers free tip restraints to any parent who requests them. ( Through its involvement on the ASTM Furniture Safety Subcommittee, AHFA is also actively engaged in efforts to research new restraining devices that would not involve tools or wall anchors.

"AHFA appreciates the work of Consumer Reports in the interest of child safety and encourages the organization to continue helping to educate parents and supporting meaningful updates to the furniture stability standard."

Reported by Susan Hogan, produced by Meredith Royster and edited by Perkins Broussard.

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