ASTM Standards Usher in New Era of Crib Safety

Standards in Action

ASTM International responded to the call for safer cribs with standards cited in the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

On June 28, 2011, new mandatory crib safety regulations took effect in the United States, ensuring a safer sleep environment for babies and infants. As a result of a landmark ruling from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, all cribs on the market must now meet robust safety specifications that ban drop-side assemblies, strengthen mattress supports and define a more rigorous testing regimen. The new safety requirements are based on two ASTM International crib standards that have been incorporated by CPSC as part of the federal regulations of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

The action by CPSC comes in response to millions of cribs having been recalled in recent years. The new crib safety standards have been hailed by child safety advocates as being the strongest in the world.

Swift Stakeholder Action in the ASTM Consensus Process

The effort to develop tougher mandatory regulations for crib safety gained steam in 2009 when CPSC enlisted ASTM International to bring together the diverse industry and consumer groups that have a stake in this critical issue. Their mission was to adapt the existing ASTM standards, F1169, Consumer Safety Specification for Full-Size Baby Cribs, and F406, Consumer Safety Specification for Non-Full Size Baby Cribs/Play Yards, for use as the basis for the new regulations. Both standards are under the jurisdiction of ASTM Subcommittee F15.18 on Cribs, Toddler Beds, Play Yards, Bassinets, Cradles and Changing Tables, part of Committee F15 on Consumer Products. The initiative involved evaluating existing outdated federal regulations on these products, working with CPSC staff to investigate recent incidents and review emerging hazards, developing new test protocols and validating tests through the assistance of independent labs.

This daunting to-do list was made even more challenging by the condensed timeline imposed by CPSC: new mandatory regulations covering cribs had to be in place by the end of 2010. Working in the collaborative ASTM process and leveraging powerful standards development technology, stakeholders representing product manufacturers, government agencies, consumer and safety advocates, retailers and testing labs from the United States and Canada worked to perform the required due diligence and craft the revised standards.

CPSC Chairman Inez M. Tenenbaum commented, "The commission delivered on my promise to Congress and to parents across the nation to adopt mandatory robust and highly protective standards for full-size and non-full-size cribs in 2010. This was an enormous undertaking and an accomplishment achieved through the incredible work ethic and dedication to the safety of children demonstrated by CPSC staff, my fellow commissioners and our stakeholder partners involved in the ASTM voluntary standards process. I want to thank ASTM for responding to my call to bring new thinking and speed to the standards development process."

Echoing Tenenbaum's comments was ASTM International 2011 chairman of the ASTM board, Catherine H. Pilarz, senior director, Mattel/Fisher-Price product safety. East Aurora, N.Y., and an F15.18 member. "The ASTM committee demonstrated tremendous resolve and urgency in reaching this milestone achievement that will help protect the lives of young children. The spirit of cooperation shown by the F15.18 members serves as a model of how the ASTM consensus process could be leveraged to support new standards activities for additional juvenile products requiring regulation as part of the CPSIA."

Positive Outcomes: Real Life Standards and Extra Assurance for Parents

Subcommittee F15.18's efforts produced the needed revisions to F1169 and F406, satisfying CPSC requirements and making the two standards the most stringent crib safety specifications available to date. While both standards were revised to eliminate drop-side cribs, stakeholders point to the strengthened test protocols as having the biggest impact on crib safety. F1169 and F406 now include improved performance testing for slat integrity, durability and mattress support strength.

Nancy Cowles, executive director of Kids in Danger, Chicago, Ill., a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting children by improving product safety, noted, "The new mandatory standards are the strongest in the world and will ensure that new cribs coming onto the market will provide a safe haven for babies and their families. By delivering significant enhancements in durability testing, the revised ASTM standards come as close as possible to mimicking long-term real life use, providing parents the extra assurance they need."

Averting Accidents Through Enhanced Product Instructions and Warnings

To help manufacturers better inform parents of potential crib-safety related hazards, both F1169 and F406 specify the inclusion of improved product labeling and warning statements. The new language contained in the revised standards makes parents more aware when a crib is misassembled, addresses potential dangers when attaching external products to full-size cribs and play yards, and highlights when a child may be too old to be placed in a crib, making them more susceptible to injuries from falling out of the crib.

Extending Crib Safety Beyond the Home

The new mandatory rules from CPSC address new cribs manufactured and sold in the United States as well as products already in use outside the home. The regulations facilitate the removal of unsafe products from the marketplace by requiring that cribs that do not comply with the ASTM standards cannot be sold at consignment and specialty shops or used at day care centers, hotels and other public accommodations.

"The diverse members of ASTM Subcommittee F15.18 came together in the spirit of cooperation, lending their time, expertise and financial resources to accelerate the standards development process and fulfill their shared commitment for better crib safety," commented Michael Dwyer, executive director of the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association.

Donald Mays, past senior director of product safety/technical policy at Consumers Union, and now with Deloitte & Touche LLP, Stamford, Conn., added, "The strengthening of ASTM International crib standards is a good example of how industry, consumer groups, government agencies and testing labs can work together in a consensus-building process to address serious safety hazards that imperil children."

Doug Clauson is a freelance writer based in Wynnewood, Pa.
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