November 12, 2008

An estimate of testing costs pt. 1

Before I break down what it would cost for certified lab testing, I have to explain a few things. The recent Consumer Product Safety Act requires that testing performed must be done by a certified testing lab.

The new legislation imposes an additional third-party testing requirement for all consumer products primarily intended for children twelve years of age or younger. Every manufacturer (including an importer) or private labeler of a children’s product must have its product tested by an accredited independent testing lab and, based on the testing, must issue a certificate that the product meets all applicable CPSC requirements.

The Act deals primarily with toys, lead, cribs, and pthalates. Children's products are technically regulated products and are subject to any rule, standard, ban, or regulation. Currently the main standards and regulations enacted by the CPSC deal with flammability, sleepwear, drawstrings, and lead. So you could pare down your testing program for those minimal requirements. However, the wording of the act implies that any testing of a children's product must be done by certified lab. Under the section on toys, the CPSC makes it clear that it will enact future safety rules on all children's products and categories, most likely in alignment with the standards established by ASTM. ASTM creates testing and quality standards on a wide variety of products. The unfortunate thing is you have to buy the standards (a piece of paper with the standard printed on it) at considerable cost.
(d) CONSIDERATION OF REMAINING ASTM STANDARDS.—After
promulgating the rules required by subsection (b), the Commission
shall—
(1) in consultation with representatives of consumer groups,
juvenile product manufacturers, and independent child product
engineers and experts, examine and assess the effectiveness
of ASTM F963 (and alternative health protective requirements
to prevent or minimize flammability of children’s products)
or its successor standard, and shall assess the adequacy of
such standards in protecting children from safety hazards; and
(2) in accordance with section 553 of title 5, United States
Code, promulgate consumer product safety rules that—
(A) take into account other children’s product safety
rules; and
(B) are more stringent than such standards, if the
Commission determines that more stringent standards
would further reduce the risk of injury associated with
such toys.
(e) PRIORITIZATION.—The Commission shall promulgate rules
beginning with the product categories that the Commission deter-
mines to be of highest priority, until the Commission has promul-
gated standards for all such product categories.
(f) TREATMENT AS CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY STANDARDS.—
Rules issued under this section shall be considered consumer
product safety standards issued by the Commission under section
9 of the Consumer Product Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 2058).
In order to comply with the Certificate of Conformity rule, you must have a "reasonable" testing program in place. For makers of children's products this mean you must have a program established with regular testing of products. How does one determine what is reasonable? Does this mean you must do more than the minimum required testing? The CPSC has yet to define what this means. The Certificate of Conformity must be issued by certified labs for makers of children's products. The implication is that the labs will assist you in making sure that any and all possible testing is recommended and perhaps required before they issue that certificate. Perhaps the testing labs will help you determine the minimum requirements and then recommend additional tests. It's all rather murky how this will play out.

So in part 2 I will give estimates of what it would cost me to test one product. I include testing which I had previously done on my own - wash testing for shrinkage and pull testing on trims. The tests I include are based on my experience in the tests required by Big Box retailers in their private label programs. The tests I included are not necessarily required by the CPSC but are included because it would be a part of my "reasonable" testing program.

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