April 02, 2014

New rules for soft infant and toddler carriers

Photo courtesy of Benutzer via Wikimedia

It's been a while since I've written about the Consumer Product and Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). While the goal of the law was worthy, the application continues to be problematic. It's clear that Congress passed a law with little understanding of what it was they were asking to be implemented. The result is that the fallout continues. The regulatory burden continues to increase, the cost of doing business continues to increase, and more businesses continue to leave the market with little to no improvement in overall safety.

Don't assume that I oppose safety rules. Quite the contrary. The child product industry has supported the implementation of safety rules and testing. But they want to do it by incorporating risk analysis, practicality, and good common sense. Instead we are being given regulations drafted by academics from the halls of Ivy League schools with no practical industry experience or understanding. (If you think I'm making this up, believe me I'm not. You can get a degree to learn how to create public policy).

In any event, a new regulation has now been published that establishes rules for soft infant and toddler carriers. Definitions are important in government legalese. This rule does NOT cover slings.

ASTM F2236-14's definition of a “soft infant and toddler carrier” distinguishes soft infant and toddler carriers from other types of infant carriers that are also worn by a caregiver but that are not covered under ASTM F-2236-14, specifically slings (including wraps), and framed backpack carriers. Soft infant and toddler carriers are designed to carry a child in an upright position. Slings are designed to carry a child in a reclined position. However, some slings may also be used to carry a child upright. Thus, the primary distinction between a sling and a soft infant and toddler carrier is that a sling allows for carrying a child in a reclined position. Different hazard patterns arise from carrying a child in a reclined position. Accordingly, slings are not covered by the standard for soft infant and toddler carriers. Like soft infant and toddler carriers, framed backpack carriers are intended to carry a child in an upright position. However, framed backpack carriers are distinguishable from soft infant and toddler carriers because typically, backpack carriers are constructed of sewn fabric over a rigid frame and are intended solely for carrying a child on the caregiver's back.

Just because this regulation does not cover slings, do not assume that regulations for slings are not forthcoming. The statement above, highlighted in yellow, states there are safety hazards and implies that standards will come.

You'll notice that ASTM F2236-14 becomes codified in law, which you must pay to access. Though a recent lawsuit* has changed this, I don't expect this standard to be made available in the public domain unless a similar lawsuit against ASTM forces it.

Some other observations:

1. The style of the this regulation is different from previous regulations that I've read. In other words, the regulatory statement includes context in the form of quotes from regulated parties along with a response from the CPSC.

2. This regulation primarily affects 32 of 39 possible businesses that manufacture this type of product.

3. The regulators apparently spent a lot of time debating the font size for text on warning labels.

4. The regulators referred to the ASTM standard as voluntary. It's really not.

5. Manufacturers of this product support the regulation.

6. This standard overlaps other standards including the third-party testing requirement found in CPSIA.
The take away from this regulation, despite being "new", is that very little changes. Most manufacturers were already complying with the ASTM standard. The difference now is that the standard becomes law with a few minor additions.

*The organization that won this lawsuit has been primarily focused on making building codes available in the public domain. Standards for children's products are not currently on their radar. Maybe someday it will be.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Very informative and helpful! Please keep up the good work!