September 6, 2008

Toys R Us Imports Sweet Crib Safety Standards, Demands Its Cribmakers Share Them

What else can I say? The CPSC's investigative function has been replaced by the Chicago Tribune, and now the agency's safety standard-setting responsibilities are apparently being taken over by freakin' big box retailers.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Toys R Us and its subsidiary Babies R Us have announced that cribmakers who wish to sell their products in TRU/BRU's 850 US stores will have to meet stricter British and Canadian safety tests. Specifically, they'll have to follow standards of crib spindle strength, wood density, and spindle construction.

The declaration follows a recall this summer of 320,000 Jardine cribs after 42 reports of spindle breakage and injuries.

"I really applaud you," [CPSC engineer Patricia] Hackett told Toys "R" Us executives Wednesday. But she said she doubted that the broader group of manufacturers that set voluntary standards for cribs would adopt design requirements. For years, manufacturers have resisted such design restrictions, pushing instead for testing requirements that allow them to be creative with their designs.
Wow, who'da thought? A "broader group of manufacturers" opposes newer, stricter safety standards? The Tribune doesn't name the group in the article, probably a bit too insider baseball, but it's ASTM, the industrial standards organization that runs the JPMA's voluntary standards regime.

Toys 'R' Us gets tough with cribmakers []
Check out the Tribune's whole collection of safety-related stories and videos []


I don't think ASTM rolls like that. Might want to check again before calling it out. The ASTM I know is very oriented to standards based on science and is also not simply comprised of manufacturers.

It's the ASTM F15 Juvenile Products Subcommittee which, you're right, is not just composed of manufacturers, but of safety industry experts, CPSC reps, the Consumers Union, even. Clearly, ASTM doesn't have an interest in being "more creative"; so those types of objections presumably emanate from the mfrs. I would hope ASTM doesn't just put its finger to the PR wind to come up with new safety standards.

Maybe I should have quoted the next line, too, where the mfrs consider crib spindle failure to be a production defect, quality control, not a design defect. Yet other countries have testing scenarios that TRU thinks would have caught the problem. Believe me, I'm not a kneejerk fan of such piecemeal, store-by-store safety testing requirements, especially when they seem prompted by a reaction to a specific incident. But TRU's announcement will sure change the tone of the discussion when the subcommittee meets next month.

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