A cause for celebration!
I am but one of the hundreds of parents whose children died because a dresser or other type of clothing storage furniture fell on them. Personally, I've first engaged with the CPSC 17 years ago, and have very actively engaged with the agency since 2014, advocating for the agency to address furniture safety to do more to educate the public and require more stringent and mandatory testing and stability measures to prevent tip-overs like the one that took my daughter Meghan's life on December 18th, 2004.
Today, we celebrate a victory. The publication of the CPSC's "Final Rule" or Federal Safety Standard for Clothing Storage Units in the Federal Register today means that 180 days from today, manufacturers must comply with the testing and stability standards outlined in the rule by May 24th, 2023. This mandatory standard is far too long overdue and something many thought would never happen. Even several of the CPSC commissioners themselves made a point of thanking Parents Against Tip-Overs for our persistence in pushing the agency to engage in rulemaking and write a strong, effective, and timely mandatory standard in their public statements and during the decisional hearing during which they voted 3:1 in favor of publishing the standard as written.
Why did it take so long for the CPSC to finally publish a mandatory safety standard for dressers and other clothing storage furniture?
Simply stated, it took until now for the Commissioners to not only finally listen to our testimony about the reluctance of the furniture industry to do the right thing and the failings of previous Commissioners to collectively pursue rulemaking, but to agree to take swift and decisive action to write their own mandatory standard for dressers and other CSUs.
Once they did, things moved quickly, although like everything else, the pandemic slowed/stalled progress for over a year.
Why is it potentially in jeopardy of not actually going into effect on May 23, 2023, or at all?
The furniture industry immediately did exactly as they said they'd do and filed a lawsuit to get the CPSC's Final Rule thrown out claiming it was too difficult to follow and would cause confusion and be unenforceable. Mind you, every single Commissioner is an attorney and they have an army of attorneys at the agency, so it's highly unlikely they'd write a rule that wasn't enforceable.
This was a stall tactic by the industry, plain and simple. But if it works and STURDY doesn't pass, it means we're right back to where we were in 2019 with an ineffective voluntary standard.
What about the STURDY Act? Isn't that the same thing?
No, it's not the same, but it is another avenue to a strong, effective, and mandatory safety standard.
At the same time myself and Parents Against Tip-Overs was pushing the CPSC to pursue aggressive rulemaking, we were also pushing the STURDY Act, which would also require the CPSC publish a mandatory standard. The biggest difference is that per our collaboration with industry, STURDY would direct the CPSC to first evaluate the soon to be updated, and much more stringent, ASTM voluntary furniture safety standard for clothing storage furniture. If it met the requirements of the STURDY Act, the CPSC would then have to make the voluntary standard the mandatory one, rather than their own.
In theory, a mandatory standard/rule that has an act of Congress behind it and is a law, is less likely to get struck down or thrown out in any legal challenge, and as such, was more of a guarantee that we'd get a strong and effective safety standard than the CPSC's rule without an act of Congress behind it.
What will happen if the STURDY Act becomes law?
You mean after I stop crying tears of joy? If STURDY becomes law, the new (not yet published) ASTM voluntary standard will become the mandatory standard and will be effective 6 months after the CPSC approves it. It will save lives!!
What will happen if the STURDY Act does not pass and is not signed into law?
At this time, we don't know. We hope that the CPSC's own final rule/standard would then become the mandatory standard, but it could be tied up in a legal battle for years, and in the meantime, we'd be back at square one and kids would keep dying.