Understanding Standards of Safety Certification for America and Its Children
News Respected standards and tests for furniture, toys and other consumer products help keep young children safe.
We generally expect that products on store shelves are going to be safe for kids, regardless of whether that product is designed specifically for them, like toys, or is simply part of their environment, such as furniture. But who sets standards when it comes to testing and certifying these products? The answer to that question is the members of standards development organizations (SDO).
How we get results
For example, in the pages that follow, you will learn about the risks of furniture tip-overs. To refine the standard for furniture stability, a global SDO regularly convenes a group of manufacturers, federal agency officials, consumer advocacy groups and others. They talk about things like the weight test requirement, in which a 50-lb weight is placed on an open drawer to see if the dresser will fall over. More recently, they’ve discussed issues like how to update the warning label and why furniture that claims to be compliant with standards must include a wall-anchored tip restraint.
“...the most important part of testing and certification is the people who actively provide input into the process.”
Similarly, a group came together last year to create a standard for a new product that poses risk to young children: liquid laundry packets. Safety advocates and detergent makers agreed on packaging and labeling standards aimed at minimizing the potential for children to ingest these products.
And, of course, children’s toys themselves have their own safety standards and tests. In fact, a new toy safety standard has been updated to include test methods and other information-related to batteries, projectiles and other hazards. In this case, the standard is considered to be so important that Congress has made it mandatory for anyone wanting to sell toys in the United States.
Writing the rules of safety
SDOs, however, are just one piece of the puzzle. Other organizations build certification programs using those standards. For example, the nonprofit Safety Equipment Institute conducts quality audits in which it takes sample products from the production line at a manufacturer’s factory — such as children’s sports helmets and equipment — and independently tests them in partnership with respected laboratories. If and when the product proves that it passes the tests, the manufacturer can say its product has been independently verified to meet a certain safety standard.
In my decades of experience, the most important part of testing and certification is the people who actively provide input into the process. Everyone needs a seat at the table: the companies that are committed to creating safe products, the labs that ensure those products comply, the regulators that track data and reports of incidents and the parents who want to create safe homes for their children. If we all keep working together, I know we can continue to build a culture of safety.