New Law Aims to Prevent Deadly Furniture Tip-overs

By Clare Tattersall

It happens far too often. Each year, thousands of people go to the emergency room for injuries related to furniture tip-overs. Some are less fortunate, losing their lives to what consumer advocates say is a preventable accident. Between January 2000 and April 2022, furniture tip-overs caused 234 deaths, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Of those who died, 85 per cent were young children. While equivalent Canadian numbers are not available, Health Canada reports that at least 60 per cent of all furniture tip-over injuries involve desks, dressers, chests, buffets and televisions.

This past September, a new law came into effect south of the border that aims to prevent furniture from tipping over and, subsequently, associated consequences. Known as STURDY, an acronym for Stop Tip-overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth, the act received bipartisan approval in December 2022. It forces furniture manufacturers to take new safety measures to ensure freestanding clothing storage units are less likely to tip on children. An anchor kit must also be included with new furniture.

Clothing storage units are defined as chests, bureaus, dressers, armoires, wardrobes, chests of drawers, drawer chests, chifforobes and door chests that are 27 inches or taller, 30 pounds or greater in weight and contain 3.2 cubic feet or more of enclosed storage (drawers and/or interior cabinet space) and open storage (shelves).

The mandatory standard requires that clothing storage units exceed minimum stability requirements. Procedures for testing clothing storage units must reflect real-world use: drawers loaded with clothing, multiple open drawers, furniture placed on carpet, and children (up to 60 pounds) climbing, pulling on or interacting with the furniture, all of which are shown to occur during tip-overs and contribute to their instability. During testing, the unit must not tip over or be supported only by an opened drawer, opened door or opened or unopened flap.

The standard also includes test methods for dressers and similar products with interlocks. Interlocks can improve furniture stability by preventing all drawers from being opened at once.

In addition to the stability requirements, the standard requires that clothing storage units are marked and labelled with safety and identification information, and display a hang tag providing performance and technical data about the product’s stability.

The new stability requirements apply to all clothing storage units manufactured on or after Sept. 1. The act does not apply to shelving units, such as bookcases, entertainment furniture, office furniture, dining room furniture, under-bed drawer storage units, jewelry armoires, laundry storage/sorting units or occasional/accent furniture like nightstands.

In Canada, there is currently no mandatory standard requiring manufacturers to test furniture to specific stability and safety standards. However, the U.S. regulation applies to product made in Canada for export to the country’s largest trading partner.

Because of this, Home Goods Merchandiser is taking a deeper dive into the STURDY Act, so furniture makers north of the 49th parallel better understand its requirements and broader implications of the law’s passage. Look for in-depth coverage in the spring 2024 issue.

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