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 March 2007

Uneventful Shopping Trips

SOME ASPECTS OF LIFE ARE MEANT TO BE UNEVENTFUL. For example, taking a trip to a store with a young child should not result in a journey to the local emergency room. However, approximately 20,000 children are injured in shopping cart–related accidents each year.

Posters such as this can be used to educate shoppers on the misuse of shopping carts.

Preventing shopping cart-related injuries and educating the public are the ultimate goals of ASTM International standard F 2372, Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Shopping Carts. The standard was developed by Subcommittee F15.56 on Shopping Carts, under the jurisdiction of ASTM International Committee F15 on Consumer Products.

Paul Giampavolo, chair of Subcommittee F15.56 and president/CEO, Safe-Strap Co., Inc., says that data compiled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, was studied carefully during the development of F 2372. According to NEISS data, over 80 percent of cart-related injuries occur when children fall from the seat or basket of shopping carts, so the emphasis of F 2372 is on minimizing falls and on educating cart users on how to avoid falling accidents. The following are the four most common reasons cited for shopping cart fall-related accidents and how each issue is addressed in F 2372.

1. No restraint system present — A restraint system limits the movements of a child sitting in a shopping cart seat. F 2372 requires that all shopping carts have an adjustable restraint system.
2. Missing/broken restraints — F 2372 requires that all shopping cart restraints remain in proper working order. In order for this to happen, the standard states that manufacturers must provide instructional material to retailers/owners addressing installation and replacement of restraint devices as well as recommendations for shopping cart maintenance. Retailer/owner responsibilities also include implementation of regular safety inspections and ongoing maintenance programs for all shopping carts and restraint systems.
3. Children wiggle out of restraints or open buckles — Even when a restraint system is in place and in good working order, children can often find ways to wiggle themselves out of restraints or to open the restraint buckles. To avoid this, F 2372 requires that all restraints meet occupancy retention performance requirements and buckles and closures be made child resistant and meet requirements that are consistent with the U.S. Federal Poison Prevention Packaging Act (16 CFR 1700).
4. Low Hazard Awareness and Consumer Misuse — An important aspect of F 2372 is to educate the public on the misuse of shopping carts, which can often result in injury. For example, children should not be allowed to ride in the basket of a shopping cart. Also, children and caregivers should stay with their children at all times and use the shopping cart restraint systems that are provided. To make sure cart users are aware of potential dangers, the standard requires that warnings be included on all shopping carts and should be routinely inspected for signs of wear.

In addition to the requirements of F 2372, an appendix to the standard includes additional safety information that retailers are suggested to provide to help warn and inform consumers about the dangers associated with shopping carts and how the cart may be used safely; these include warning posters, prompts and educational materials.
Giampavolo notes that F 2372 does not address the issues of child carriers or infant seats and says that these may be considered for future editions of the standard. Also not included are such “add-ons” as carts that include a plastic “car” in which the child sits lower to the ground than in conventional carts. Giampavolo says that there is virtually no evidence of injuries occurring in this type of cart.

According to Giampavolo, Subcommittee F15.56 is very interested in greater participation in future revisions to F 2372 and in its other standards developing activities, particularly from the retail sector. “While many retailers comply with the standard, it can be challenging to find retailer representatives to participate in the subcommittee,” says Giampavolo. “The individuals within retail organizations that are most familiar with ASTM and consumer safety standards are involved with general merchandise items sold in their stores and are not involved with the shopping carts.”

Despite these challenges, Giampavolo believes that Subcommittee F15.56 is succeeding in its mission to make everybody’s shopping trips safe and uneventful.

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