Furniture tipping over can create a significant hazard in the home, particularly to young children, although the frail elderly and the disabled may also be disproportionately negatively impacted as well. Top quality furniture has always resisted tipping over as a result of use far more effectively than cheaper goods, because best manufacturing practices and materials create structure that builds this in to a large extent.
However, particularly since most people purchase mass market goods, much of which does not come anywhere near meeting these kinds of inherent quality standards, it’s important to read the press release below, and to be alert to the hazard, as well as to ways you can mitigate it.
In earthquake-prone areas such as California, it is particularly important to bolt taller pieces of furniture to the wall in order to prevent tip-over in an earthquake (although that still won’t help with the problem of poorly constructed drawers falling out). In an earthquake, all bets are off as to what will or will not tip over due to construction quality, and you’ve got to assume that everything will fall over. Securing tall pieces to the wall is just plain a good idea everywhere else, too, for the reasons outlined below, just on general principles, and is the reason this new voluntary standard has been developed.
In future posts, I’ll address the question of what to look for in furniture construction of various types of furniture in order to ensure you get the best possible quality, which contributes to safety, comfort, usability, durability, sustainability, and cost-effectiveness, as well as pure pleasure and enjoyment.
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(05/18/2009) AHFA Will Use Consumer Website to Help Educate Parents About Furniture Tip-Over Hazards
By: Jackie Hirschhaut, 336/881-1016
HIGH POINT, N.C. – ASTM International has released a revised furniture tip-over standard requiring manufacturers to include a “tip restraint” with each chest, door chest and dresser taller than 30 inches.
“Tip restraints attach the piece of furniture to an interior wall, framing or other support to help prevent the piece from tipping over,” explains American Home Furnishings Alliance Vice President Bill Perdue, who served as co-chair of the furniture safety subcommittee that worked on the revised standard. “Furnishings that comply with the new standard also will carry a new warning label that cautions parents not to open more than one drawer at a time, not to place televisions or other heavy objects on the top of the product, and not to allow children to climb on drawers.”
Perdue said AHFA will make use of its popular consumer website, http://www.findyourfurniture.com, to help inform parents about the proper use of tip restraints. The site already receives thousands of visitors each day and is a frequently-publicized destination for information on furniture styles and trends, as well as buying tips and furniture care and safety.
“If consumers leave these restraints in the box and ignore them, the industry’s efforts to provide this safety device are for naught,” says Perdue. “In addition, if not installed correctly, tip restraints can and will fail.”
AHFA plans a safety video to be posted on http://www.findyourfurniture.com that will demonstrate how tip restraints work. It will urge consumers to consult the manufacturer for specific installation instructions, since these instructions may vary depending on the piece.
The video also will reinforce the warnings that are listed on the permanent safety label required under the revised standard. These warnings include:
Place heaviest items in the lowest drawers.
Do not set TVs or other heavy objects on the top of the product.
Never allow children to climb or hang on drawers, doors or shelves.
Never open more than one drawer at a time.
Do not defeat or remove the drawer interlock system.
The label also advises parents that “use of tip-over restraints may reduce but not eliminate the risk of tip-over.”
Although standards issued by ASTM are voluntary, it is the largest standards development organization in the United States and its rulings play a critical role in reducing injuries and fatalities based on identified hazards in the use and performance of many consumer and household products.
The revised tip-over standard was issued just as a new study was released by the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which reported the number of injuries related to furniture tipping over increased more than 40 percent from 1990 to 2007.
According to the study, published in the online issue of Clinical Pediatrics, most tip-over-related injuries during the 17-year-period involved children younger than 7 years of age and resulted from televisions tipping over. However, more than one quarter of the injuries occurred when children pulled over or climbed on furniture.
“This tip-over standard remains a voluntary standard,” Perdue points out. “However, there can be real punitive issues if you are the subject of a legal action involving an injury or death and you did not comply with the requirements as outlined in the ASTM standard.”
To pass the ASTM tip-over standard, an empty chest, armoire or dresser taller than 30 inches must not tip when the doors (if any) are open and all drawers are open two-thirds of the way or to the stop. It also cannot tip when one drawer is open two-thirds of the way and a 50-pound weight is applied to the center front of that open drawer.
AHFA members with questions about the revised standard should contact Perdue at email@example.com. Manufacturers who are not members of AHFA should email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“By participating in the revision of the ASTM standard and providing consumers with information to help them protect themselves and their children, AHFA continues to lead the industry on furniture safety issues,” states Perdue.