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AHFA Message About Holiday Furnishings Safety Risk

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The AHFA reported that it recently sent out the following information to the consumer press regarging furniture and television tip over hazzards. It's a message that home furnishings retailers and retail sales associates may want to also relate to customers when selling furnishing that might present a child safety risk.   

Consumer News Release:
Large, flat-screen televisions were among the top promotions for Black Friday shoppers this year, with 50-inch models selling for as little at $199. As an ideal stocking stuffer to go along with those purchases, the American Home Furnishings Alliance (AHFA) recommends tip restraints – for both the televisions and the furnishings that hold them.

On average, one child under the age of 10 dies every two weeks from injuries caused by a television, piece of furniture or household appliance falling on top of them, according to a 2014 report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The report reflects data gathered from emergency departments from 2000 through 2013.

AHFA has worked for more than a decade on safety measures specifically designed to reduce the number of furniture tip-over accidents – the majority of which involve an unsecured television.

Today’s flat-panel TVs are especially susceptible to tipping over when the furniture holding them is bumped or moved. Although the tall, thin profile makes it appear lightweight, a 50-inch plasma television weighs an average of 47 pounds, and a 50-inch LED LCD an average of 35 pounds, according to CNET, a website offering information and product reviews on consumer electronics. This equates to the weight of three or four bowling balls – an alarming blow for a small child.

“The good news is that these accidents are easily preventable with the proper safety devices in place,” reports Jackie Hirschhaut, AHFA vice president of public relations. A nylon strap anti-tip device costs only $12.99, while plastic brackets that screw into the wall studs and then secure to the television and/or furniture cost only $4.99. Both are readily available from baby superstores that carry home safety products, but are harder to find in stores that specialize in electronics.

Thanks to a voluntary standard AHFA helped develop, much new furniture over 30 inches in height is shipped with tip restraints, along with instructions for installing them. But no tip restraints come with flat screen televisions.

“The voluntary safety measure for the furniture industry specifically targets clothing storage furniture – like chests, dressers and armoires – because those are types of furniture most frequently involved in tip-over accidents,” Hirschhaut explains. The standard has been in place since 2000, and tip restraints have been required for compliance since 2009.

In 2012, AHFA conducted a survey of 1,000 U.S. households on the topic of furniture safety. Specifically, AHFA attempted to determine what precautions, if any, parents are taking to prevent furniture from tipping over, particularly in households with children under the age of 6.

“More than a third of the households with children under age 6 said they have moved an old TV into a child’s room,” Hirschhaut notes.

Even more alarming, 38 percent of the households with small children said they have placed a TV on a dresser, and one in 10 has used a bookshelf – two of the most dangerous places to place a television of any kind.

“Many families move their old television into a secondary room after the purchase of a new, flat-panel television,” says Hirschhaut. “Whether that ‘secondary’ room is a child’s bedroom, a playroom or a guest bedroom, it is often a less-supervised area of the house. Then, placing the TV on an unsuitable piece of furniture in those rooms only heightens the likelihood of an accident.”
Additional tips from AHFA for preventing TV and furniture tip-over accidents this holiday season – and throughout the year – include:
  • Always place televisions on furniture that is low to the floor, sturdy and designed to accommodate the size and weight of the television.
  • In households with small children, always anchor the furniture and the television. Use tip restraints provided with new furniture, and purchase tip restraints for existing furniture in your home that could potentially tip – whether or not it holds a TV.
  • In households with small children, never place a television on a piece of furniture with drawers or shelves that can be used as “steps.”
  • Don’t create the temptation to climb. Keep remote controls, toys and other items that might be attractive to children off the furniture that holds the TV. 
The American Home Furnishings Alliance, based in High Point, N.C., represents more than 200 leading furniture manufacturers and distributors, plus about 150 suppliers to the furniture industry worldwide.

BACKGROUND ON THE VOLUNTARY FURNITURE TIP-OVER STANDARD:  The residential furniture industry has had a voluntary furniture tip-over standard since 2000. It was updated in 2004, 2009 and again in 2014.

The standard is available from ASTM International (www.astm.org), a globally recognized leader in the development of international voluntary consensus standards. Today, some 12,000 ASTM standards are used around the world to improve product quality, enhance safety and build consumer confidence. The ASTM Subcommittee on Furniture Safety has jurisdiction over four active ASTM standards. In addition to furniture tip-over and tip restraints, these include a standard for use of horizontal glass in desks and tables and a standard for cedar chests.

To meet the voluntary furniture tip-over standard, an empty unit cannot tip when all doors (if any) are open and all drawers are open to the “stop” or open two-thirds of the way if there is no “stop.” The unit also cannot tip when one drawer is open to the “stop” (or open two-thirds of the way if there is no “stop”) and a 50-pound weight is applied to the center front the drawer. This test must be repeated for each drawer (and door, if any) in the unit.

The 2009 update added the requirement that all furniture covered by the standard – including chests, dressers, door chests, lingerie chests, bureaus, armoires and any other storage unit more than 30 inches in height – be shipped with a tip-over warning label, tip restraints and directions for using the tip restraints. “Media chests” for the bedroom – a relatively new product category now common in most bedroom furniture collections – were specifically added to the list of covered products in the 2009 revision.

The 2014 revision changed the language within the test method to address the increasingly popular use of “full extension drawer glides” in bedroom furniture. Previously, such pieces could be tested with the drawers open two-thirds of the way. Industry professionals serving on the ASTM Furniture Safety subcommittee determined that drawers intended to be used fully extended by the consumer should be tested fully extended, so the testing procedure was rewritten.

A separate UL standard covers TV stands. The electronics industry does not have a stability standard for televisions, and there is no requirement for new televisions to be shipped with tip restraints.

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