• Thomas Russell

ASTM mulls standards for bunk bed stair safety

HIGH POINT — A committee on bunk bed safety plans to address whether the industry needs a new standard regarding the safety of bunk bed staircase units, many of which feature steps that double as clothing storage units.

The issue arose during a Nov. 8 meeting in High Point of the ASTM F-15 committee on bunk bed safety, which helps draft specific language used in voluntary safety standards.

At present there appears to be no clear data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission indicating that falls have occurring on bunk bed steps vs. bunk bed ladders.

However, some in the group believe it may be necessary to develop language in the standard that addresses the staircase units, most of which are attached to the unit during assembly.

Part of the discussion focused on the space between the steps of the staircases, but the bigger issues appeared to be the placement of safety rails. The placement of drawers in the units is another potential concern as open drawers can trip a child going up or down the staircase in the middle of the night.

Bill Perdue, vice president of regulatory affairs for the American Home Furnishings Alliance, and the chair of the F-15 committee said that when early bunk bed safety standards were created, back in the late 1980s, these types of units were not in the marketplace. Thus the current standard was not designed to address such units.

But as they have grown in popularity over the past several years, he urged the group to consider the need for a standard for staircase units.

“Stairs built into the bunk bed have created an issue we have not dealt with before,” he said, later adding, “We have to come up with something. … I for one do not think we stick our head in the sand and not address this.

However the issue raised some concerns among some members, who viewed the development of new standards for staircase units as a major issue for the industry.

“This is a really big deal we are talking about,” said Bobby Puett, of Diversified Testing Laboratories, who has been working on bunk bed safety standards for the past 30 years. He suggested that the committee wait for more data from the CPSC that illustrates whether the units are in fact a safety issue that needs to be addressed separately from ladders.

“We do not know this is a problem,” Puett said, adding that no one has presented any specific data linking accidents to bunk bed staircase units.

But some at the meeting, including Ladislao Holmes, director of quality assurance at Emerald Home Furnishings, urged addressing the issue sooner versus later.

“Shouldn’t we be more proactive?” he asked the committee.

The discussion veered toward incorporating stairs into the section of the current standard (F-1427-2013) 4.9.1 that addresses ladder safety.

At present the language in the current standard can be interpreted that stairs and ladders are equal, when they aren’t, Perdue noted.

“All we are saying is that a ladder and a step are not the same and should not be treated the same,” Perdue said.

Perdue and others agreed it was best for a separate committee task force study the issue and come up with recommendations.

“I have been with this task group a long time, and that was not in our discussion as we developed this standard,” he said, adding that the committee needs to decide whether “we address it, and if so, how.”

He also asked Consumer Product Safety Officials for any more specific data regarding bunk bed staircase unit that the committee can use in future discussions on the issue.

Thomas RussellThomas Russell | Associate Editor, Furniture Today
trussell@furnituretoday.com

I'm Tom Russell and have worked at Furniture/Today since August 2003. Since then, I have covered the international side of the business from a logistics and sourcing standpoint. Since then, I also have visited several furniture trade shows and manufacturing plants in Asia, which has helped me gain perspective about the industry in that part of the world. As I continue covering the import side of the business, I look forward to building on that knowledge base through conversations with industry officials and future overseas plant tours. From time to time, I will file news and other industry perspectives online and, as always, welcome your response to these Web postings.

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