Infant Safety Initiatives by the CPSC

Over the past several weeks, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC“) issued new federal safety standards for the manufacture and importation of infant bath seats and infant baby walkers. These mandatory rules were prompted by Section 104 of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (“CPSIA“), which requires the Commission to “study and develop safety standards for infant and toddler products” and either make the voluntary safety standards mandatory or impose a stricter standard.

Section 104 of the CPSIA applies to the following products: “full-size cribs and non full-size cribs; toddler beds; high chairs, booster chairs, hook on chairs; bath seats; gates and other enclosures for confining a child; play yards; stationary activity centers; infant carriers; strollers; walkers; swings; and bassinets and cradles.” This section does not allow the Commission to develop safety standards “as they see fit” or “on their own time,” it directed the Commission to “begin two rulemakings by August 14, 2009 and promulgate two more rules every six months until all products have mandatory safety standards.” According to the CPSC press release on May 20, 2010, “[t]he federal standard for infant bath seats is the first mandatory standard issued by CPSC as required under the [CPSIA] for a range of infant and toddler durable products.”

With respect to the infant bath seats, the CPSC voted 5-0 in favor of imposing a stricter standard than the current ASTM voluntary standard. This standard added the following:

stricter stability requirements to prevent the bath seat from tipping over, tighter leg opening requirements to prevent children from slipping through the leg openings and a larger permanent warning label alerting parents and caregivers that bath seats are not safety devices and that infants should never be left unattended in a bath seat.

The final mandatory rule for infant baby walkers also imposes additional requirements to the ASTM voluntary standard, including the following:

using the actual weight of a walker in a calculation to determine the launching distance for the stair fall test, specifying equipment used in the stair fall test, adding a parking brake test for walkers equipped with parking brakes.

These standards will become effective six months after publication to the Federal Register and bath seats or walkers manufactured or imported after that date must comply with these standards. Interestingly, the CPSC noted that no baby bath seat currently on the market complies with the new mandatory standard.

What we can expect is a number new mandatory standards for the types of products listed above. As with bath seats and walkers, the CPSC will likely impose additional standards beyond the voluntary ASTM standards. Counsel and management for companies selling these types of products need to be on the look out for these changing standards as to avoid non-compliance and hefty fines by the CPSC.

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