Consumer Voices Make a Difference

I remember shopping one afternoon with my son James, who was a year old at the time. He quickly tired of walking and insisted on riding “in the big basket, Mommy, please?” Regrettably, I complied with his request.  

Within minutes, he stood up in the cart and quickly tumbled out headfirst onto the linoleum floor. Thankfully, James was not injured. It took Mom much longer to recover from the incident. 

Ironically, at the time, I was a staff manager at ASTM International, providing support for the standards development process in our consumer products committee (F15). The very next week, some members of that group were meeting to discuss standards for safety restraints in shopping carts. Needless to say, I was very interested in observing this organizational meeting of the subcommittee on shopping cart safety (F15.56).

I learned that more than 20,000 children under age 5 are injured annually with shopping carts, and I listened intently to safety experts talk about how, when children stand in the basket of the cart, their center of gravity is higher than the basket height, causing a significant fall risk. 

Just as important, I also heard consumer representatives on the committee speak about the need for better labeling and more education for consumers. In fact, their input helped to shape label designs for the shopping carts that would alert consumers of possible risks and best practices for child safety while using the cart. 

As a result of their input, the new label and other safety requirements were incorporated into the standard consumer safety performance specification for shopping carts (currently designated F2372-15). In addition, the industry responded to the consumer concerns with a widespread educational effort in retail locations. Needed information was distributed where people use shopping carts as well as in other appropriate venues like pediatricians’ offices and online.

This is just one example of how consumer voices make a difference in ASTM International technical committees. There are many others I could share, having worked with F15 for almost 20 years. 

Consumers are critical to the standards development process and to ensuring that ASTM International delivers the best possible standards for all of us. Consumers, advocates from consumer organizations, and representatives of consumer-focused government agencies bring a unique and important lens of expertise and experience to standards work. As a result, many people are positively impacted by the consumer product standards that ASTM International develops, from toys to candles, sports equipment to playgrounds, to juvenile products and more. 

Because ASTM International places such high value on consumer input, we strive to make their engagement as easy as possible. For example, we offer affiliate membership at no cost as well as training to all consumer members. In addition, we have provided some travel reimbursement to help interested consumers participate in standards development meetings. And, of course, consumers, like all members, can participate fully in the balloting process. 

My years supporting the consumer products committee were incredibly rewarding. I saw firsthand just how crucial the consumer voice is in fostering thoughtful discussions and debate while helping to illuminate data and testing. It is not easy work, but it is critically important.

Within the open, balanced, and consensus-driven framework of ASTM International — technical committees, manufacturers, retailers, testing laboratories, academia, consumer groups, government representatives, safety experts, consultants, and yes, even moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandmas, and grandpas — all parties come together to enhance consumer-product safety. I’m thankful for all
of them.

Katharine E. Morgan
President, ASTM International

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