A Top Priority for ASTM Committee F15
by Bob Waller
The wonder and amazement of a first baby brings much to the imagination of new parents. Upon hearing of a new life, the search for a crib, high chair, stroller and much more begins. Many new parents have no idea stringent standards are developed for childrens products. The question is, what are these standards and how do they come about?
More than 20 years ago, the juvenile products industry saw the
advantage of utilizing the ASTM process to develop consensus standards for childrens products. Currently there are 17 standards covering the following products:
1. Bath seats;
2. Carriages and strollers;
3. Full size cribs;
4. Non-full size cribs;
5. Gates and enclosures;
6. High chairs;
7. Portable hook-on chairs;
8. Play yards;
9. Stationary activity centers;
10. Infant swings;
11. Toddler beds;
12. Baby walkers;
14. Infant bouncer seats;
15. Infant bedding;
16. Portable bed rails; and
17. Hand held infant carriers.
In addition, there are standards in development for front and back baby carriers and changing tables. These standards incorporate and often expand upon existing mandatory government standards.
Mandatory and Voluntary Standards
When thinking about all products intended for children, where to begin when developing a standard can be overwhelming. Clearly the industry wants to ensure all products marketed to consumers are of the highest quality and meet all mandatory and voluntary standards. The ASTM standards are developed for juvenile products based on hazard data, which provides each of the subcommittees insight into how the products are used by consumers and, in some cases, misused.
Some products even have comprehensive federal mandatory standards that all manufacturers of those specific products must meet in order for the products to be sold. For example, all childrens car seats must meet the federal standard FMVSS 213, administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration prior to being sold. This standard requires comprehensive dynamic testing intended to simulate crash situations and ensure the reasonable safety of the child occupant. Other mandatory standards are generic, covering all products intended for use by children. For example, small parts that may be a hazard to children under three years of age are regulated (Section 16 Code of Federal Regulations 1501, et seq.) by the U. S. Consumer Product Safety Commission which administers regulations under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act and the Consumer Product Safety Act. The CPSC also administers regulations that restrict the level of lead in paint and other similar surface coatings (16 C.F.R. 1303). The CPSC incorporates simulated use and abuse performance tests in their regulations. Finally, they administer mandatory regulations for certain aspects of full-size baby cribs (16 C.F.R. 1508), non-full-size baby cribs (16 C.F.R. 1509), rattles (16 C.F.R. 1510), pacifiers (16 C.F.R. 1511), or banning certain types of baby bouncers, baby walkers and infant cushions (16 C.F.R. 1500.18).
What Is Hazard Data?
The juvenile products industry has a long and successful relationship with the CPSC, the federal agency responsible for all consumer products. The CPSC is an active participant in the development of standards covering childrens products.
Through complaints and the CPSCs National Emergency Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), data is provided to each of the relevant ASTM subcommittees on patterns of injuries involving specific products. These patterns of injuries assist the subcommittees in determining what direction to take in the development of a new standard, or a revision to a current standard.
As an example, until recently, the standard for baby walkers included specific test requirements for tipping, dynamic and static load testing and occupant retention. The data provided by the CSPC from the NEISS system indicated there was a pattern of injuries surrounding children falling down stairs in their walkers.
The subcommittee used the data to develop specific performance requirements to prevent walkers from falling down stairs. The revision to ASTM F 977, Consumer Safety Specification for Infant Walkers, resulted in the reduction of hundreds of injuries to children who may not have been adequately supervised.
The ASTM Process at Work
Participants in the development of standards for juvenile products within ASTM Committee F15 include representatives from the federal government, including the CPSC and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, along with manufacturers, retailers, test labs, consumer advocate groups and individual consumers. Each standards requirements are specific to the individual product. The testing requirements reflect real world injuries and are intended to address typical use as well as reasonably foreseeable abuse of the product(s).
The following are some requirements incorporated into ASTM standards for a few of the products that go beyond mandatory federal requirements:
Drop test for trays
Disengagement test of trays
Load and stability tests for chairs
Restraining system tests
Corner post vertical extensions
Dynamic impact testing for crib structural integrity
Crib interior dimensions and component spacing
Impact testing of crib side rails
Carriages and Strollers
Load tests on the seat and footrests
Restraint system integrity
In addition, each of the standards contain specific requirements for labeling and marking of both the product and packaging. These warnings/markings are intended to alert parents/caregivers to specific issues involving each product.
Manufacturers of products intended for children understand they must assume additional responsibility to ensure the safety of the user. By ensuring compliance to the applicable ASTM standard and use of the JPMA certification program (see sidebar) consumers can feel secure the product is built with safety in mind. //
Copyright 2003, ASTM