U.S. regulatory agencies prioritize child safety in consumer products

February 14, 2023

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By Chris Harvey, VP, crisis solution

Regulators in the United States have been moving especially quickly in the past year to implement new rules to protect children. With 2023 now well underway, companies should expect even more regulatory changes as federal agencies update their language and increase safety measures in consumer products.

Safety hazards and regulations

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has determined that there is an unreasonable risk of injury and death, particularly to children, associated with clothing storage units (CSU) tipping over. As a result, the agency published a new mandatory furniture tip-over standard in the Federal Register on November 25, 2022. Furniture manufacturers and importers will have until May 24, 2023 to ensure their product complies with the standard. The CPSC rule purports to address the hazard posed to small children due to stability issues with CSUs.

This rule comes as part of a push from the Biden Administration to improve child safety. In December 2022, President Biden signed into law the ‘Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023’ which included the Stop Tip-overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth Act (STURDY), a collaboration between furniture industry stakeholders, parent and consumer groups and testing labs.

Although this new mandatory standard is receiving mixed reviews from an array of consumer groups, it is in line with what we have seen across regulatory agencies.

In June 2022, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a broad warning regarding the potential risks of using neck floats for infants and toddlers. The inflatable plastic rings are particularly hazardous for younger children and newborns undergoing water therapy for developmental problems. According to the FDA, some floats are even marketed to premature babies or babies as young as two weeks old—who are too young to safely use these products.

The CPSC has been concerned with these swim aids for a few years, working behind the scenes with manufacturers on safety modifications. The FDA issued its warning after learning that businesses were promoting neck floats for use as a water therapy equipment without receiving FDA permission or approval. That agency has been urging parents and healthcare professionals to report any incidents with the swim aids.

Additionally, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also updated the testing requirements for child safety seats with a new final rule. The new regulations represent a significant improvement in safeguarding children from severe injuries in auto accidents.

These regulatory changes across agencies have been spurred by increased pressure from stakeholders and parent groups. Companies should act as quickly as possible to make these changes. As more child safety advocates use the news media and social media to shed light on many issues linked to children’s products, agencies will rapidly issue new mandates that will need immediate attention.

It is important for companies who manufacture products designed for children (or that may be used by children) to evaluate whether their products may be at risk from increased regulatory scrutiny, and to then conduct appropriate due diligence to make sure they are prepared to adapt to these rules.

Ways to stay informed

To remain up-to-date with these changes, hear what is coming down the pipeline from regulators and speak with others in the industry about emerging risks:

  • Attend industry events like the International Consumer Products Health and Safety Organization’s (ICPHSO’s) upcoming symposium in Orlando February 20-23. Stop by booth #2 to speak with Sedgwick’s brand protection recall experts.
  • Register to join us for our State of the Nation Recall Index webinar on March 1, where we dive into regulatory trends across five industries — including consumer products — and give you access to the 2023 report.

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